Monday, January 31, 2011

Church Anniversary

Last week and this past weekend were unique, enjoyable and memorable.

Last week, David had another restaurant gift certificate that he had not used.  It was from Benihana, a very nice Japanese restaurant where they cook at your table on the open tappan grill.  The chef for each table makes it an entertaining time, with tricks and activities with his utensils and the food.  So, we went last Thursday evening to dinner at Benihana's.

On Friday we took care of little Bailey for the afternoon and then went to dinner with Crystal and Shawn.  Friday is the usual night that Sondra and I go out for dinner at a sit-down restaurant.  Crystal and Shawn had been given a gift card from the Claim Jumper restaurant.

All week long, I had been busy with preparations for Sunday.  We had set aside January 30 for our Ten-Year Anniversary celebration worship service at our church, The Vision Plus Church.  So many others helped with planning, coordination and preparation as well.  So, on Saturday morning I did some last minute errands and calls and work for the celebration service.

On Saturday evening, we had tickets for the Bill Gaither Homecoming concert in nearby Ontario.  There were six of us that went as a group, meeting other friends there at the arena later.  The six of us included me and Sondra, David, Alden, and a couple from the church (Wayne and Lynn Peters).  We met first at the In-N-Out hamburger drive-in close to the concert venue.  David and I decided to try something that we had heard about that is not on the menu, therefore you must order it special.  I got my double-double hamburger "animal style" and David got both hamburger and french fries "animal style."  Do you know what that is?  If you do, let me know.  I'll explain later in another blog!

I had never seen Bill Gaither in person, so this concert evening was a treat.  He is a very special person who brings together so many talented groups and Christian singing artists for one concert.  They sang the old gospel hymns and gospel standards that I grew up on in the 1950s and 60s.  It brought back so many memories and melodies that are so sweet to the soul.  The concert had times of humor that we laughed so hard, there were testimonies that brought tears to our eyes, and the music simply lifted our spirits to heaven's doors.  The concert started at 6 pm and was not over until 10:15 pm.  We didn't get home until almost midnight.  It was like being in a worship setting for the entire evening.  A very special night indeed.

Sunday morning came and we had given notice that we were not holding our regular morning Bible study and worship hour.  For our Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the church, we set everything to start at 12:30 pm for a light lunch and refreshment and fellowship time together.  So, for 45 minutes we ate and talked and had a relaxed time to mingle. 

At 1:15 pm, we hosted Wayne Landes and his Southland band, a country gospel group.  Wayne has been a good friend from my days of study at California Baptist College (now the California Baptist University) in 1977, almost 35 years ago!  It reminds me and reinforces for me the truth about how friendships built early in our lives can continue to blossom and reap joy many years later, no matter where we move to or what places we find ourselves in!

At 1:45 pm, we began our Worship Service Celebration.  We gave out Church Photo 2011 Calendars and church logo refrigerator magnets.  We sang praise choruses, special introductions of guests, Scripture reading, a brief recounting of the church's beginning and ensuing years of ministry, a wonderful time of testimonies and then a short message by the Director of Missions for our Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association, Daryl Lackey.  As a special feature, I had my brother Roger come and lead part of the praise singing time also. 

The sanctuary was full and overflowing, with around 118 present for the day of celebration.  The service lasted until nearly 4 pm, so we had a long day of praise, worship and fellowship.  After the service, we cut a special-made cake for the occasion.  It was an exceptional day.  The glory of God was proclaimed in every way.  I just can't say enough about how wonderful the day was, and everyone has affirmed that yesterday and today in phone calls and emails.  Awesome!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Love to Debate

I never took a formal class in debate in school.  I grew up in a family of seven children, and you learn quickly how to state your case and defend your thoughts even as a kid.  So, as an adult now, I love it when I am questioned about my faith or given a chance to explain what I believe.  I never claim to be the brightest theologian or the most accomplished scholar, but I do know something about history and church life and the Bible on my own.

I was reading a blog from an atheist friend of mine.  He quotes the "babble of unbelief" from others.  That would be like me quoting every preacher and theologian without using my own process of digging for truth.  Yes, I will quote others, but only after I have completed my personal investigation of facts and relevant issues.  This friend, and I will refer to him as "Cynical Sam," copied comments from a web site debunking the authorship of the gospels, making statements impossible to prove about Biblical transcription errors and changes and texts.

Cynical Sam, like others who refuse to believe the authority and power of Scripture, simply categorize the Bible with other secular writings.  If the Bible has no credibility, there would be no reason to rail against it.  For those writings that I feel unworthy and useless for my belief system, I simply ignore them.  They bring no hope, they hold no importance for me, and therefore I need not read nor comment on them.  It really is because the Bible is so true and redemptive that those who oppose it must be so adamant and condemning.

Cynical Sam, my good friend, also quoted from a web site that advocates Earth as a spiritual home for all in a pantheistic viewpoint.  The question is raised about feeling a sense of peace and belonging and wonder in the midst of nature - in a forest, by the ocean or on a mountain top.  Are you speechless with awe when you look up at the sky on a clear moonless night and see the stars or look down at the breakers crashing on a rocky shore?  Cynical Sam says, "If you answered yes to these questions, then you will feel thoroughly at home in the World Panthiest Movement."

No, I feel at home knowing a God who created all that I see, feel and hear.  Yes, I have been on the rocky ledges overlooking majestic ocean waves.  I have viewed the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon.  I have traveled the world with eyes taking in the beauty of nature in places that are more than even imaginable.  And it brings me back to the realization that this cosmos did not come into being on its own.  The thought that this earth just appeared randomly takes more than faith in a belief system that cannot be proved.  It takes a refusal to understand the very nature of life.  The life journey of an atheist does not change with its "no god" belief system, as the life of an atheist just marches on into nothingness.  There is nothing that brings meaning or hope or purpose in atheism.

On the other hand, my faith has proof.  My life is living proof.  My life has been changed.  I am different.  I do have meaning and hope and purpose.  I will take my path of life anytime over one without Jesus.  I am not into "religion," as Cynical Sam so desperately hammers against.  I agree with Cynical Sam on the fact that "religion" has no value.  Religion is not the key.  Jesus is the answer and hope for eternity.  You can take that to the bank!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Today is Double Special

I know the title should read "doubly special," but I like the term double special better!

Today is my parent's anniversary date.  On January 24, 1941, Adolph Lee Greenwalt married Alice Marjorie Bergeron in the pastor's study of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  After the short ceremony by the pastor with no one else present, they took a train to Aunt Jo's house, and then later that day took another train to Aunt Mae's house.  What a different type of day we have for weddings and honeymoons today!

When my dad passed away in 1995, they had been married 54 years.  Today marks 70 years since their wedding day so many years ago.  Mom and Dad showed us how to live a married life with purpose and devotion and harmony.  I am grateful for parents who were role models for me.  It is a tough issue in our society today to focus on the real foundations we must have for lasting relationships.  I hope I can be that role model for my children and for those who follow after me in life.

For those of you who may not know, mom still teaches a Sunday School class to this day, even at the age of 87, at her church in Tecumseh, Oklahoma.

Here is a picture of mom from last Thanksgiving.

The other thing special about today is that it is my sister's birthday.  On January 24, 1948, a little girl was born Maudie Carol Greenwalt in a small town by the name of Bells, Texas.  This sister, Marti, is my favorite sister.  Did I say that she is my only sister as well?  Ha ha.  Seriously, Marti and I grew up being two years apart in birth order (she is older!), and we have wonderful memories of school days and home life and Glorieta work experiences.  Even as adults, we have shared some special times (California Baptist College days, her graduation overseas, my trip to Japan to preach, and sending school children's letters to her students in Africa when I taught special ed at a middle school here in Rialto).  I am thankful for a sister who loves family, who loves life, who loves to open her home with a hospitable spirit, and who shows a complete dedication to a servanthood lifestyle.  I hope she lives many more fruitful years for the Kingdom's sake.

Here are some photos of Marti from last Thanksgiving also.

To both Marti and Mom, have a blessed day today!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Noel Back In Missouri

What a special week this was.

Noel, Janice and Mark were here in Rialto with us from Tuesday evening to Friday morning.  Noel got all his tests completed and his pacemaker adjusted at the Mayo CLinic in Phoenix.  We are trusting that all the procedures they did will help him experience an ease in his painful episodes of massive heart palpitations.  He was quite pleased with the results so far, as he was being careful in his California stay.  The real test will be with his normal routine at home in Springfield.

In my previous blog, I wrote about our Wednesday steak barbecue dinner.  On Thursday evening, we got together again (the five brothers and as many other family members as could) for the dinner meal at the Dining Commons at California Baptist University.  Years ago, we would have avoided the "cafeteria" at Cal Baptist because of the food, but now the provider/vendor for the meals does an outstanding job of offering wonderful menus for each meal.

Here's a picture of us five brothers again, in front of the Mexican food buffet area at CBU.

Thursday was a fun day for Mark.  That afternoon Evan took Mark to Dave & Buster's game room.  Then, that same evening, Mark went with Shawn and Crystal and little Bailey to Dave & Buster's again.  Mark was thrilled.  He loves his cousins, and they had a terrific time of playing the various games there.  Mark is excellent in his motor skills, and we were told that he attracted a crowd to watch him play and win!  He was able to purchase some prizes with his tickets won playing the games.

On Friday morning, we went out for breakfast for one last visit together before heading back to Phoenix. 

Sondra and I drove them back, spent the night with Mark in his huge hotel suite and then drove back to Rialto Saturday morning.  It was exhausting, but it was all worth it.  We just had a little vacation time as a family when we least expected it.

This morning, I preached on John the Baptist and his message of repentance and hope from the third chapter of Matthew.  There are some who still refuse to believe, but we rejoice in those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus for eternal redemption.  When John the Baptist stood in the wilderness in his strange dress and unusual eating diet, hundreds and hundreds came out to hear the powerful message of God's power to save.  The same is true today.  The power of the gospel draws those whose hearts are ready to receive.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Five Brothers Together

Last night, the five Greenwalt brothers were gathered together for the first time in 35 years. 

There were six boys and one girl born in our family.  Our oldest brother, Truett, died of cancer at the young age of 55 back in 1997.  So, there were five Greenwalt boys (now wise old men?) who got together for dinner on Wednesday evening, January 19.

Here is a picture of us, from oldest to youngest:  David, Galen, Noel, John and Roger.

Noel flew out last weekend from Missouri for some tests at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.  His wife Janice and son Mark accompanied him.  I drove to Phoenix on Tuesday morning, picked them up and brought them back to Rialto that evening.  It's about 320 miles each way, and the trip is about a 5-hour drive each way (all on Interstate 10).  The drive was enjoyable, as we were talking all the way.  (I will take them back to Phoenix on Friday, for their return flight home to Sprinfield, Missouri.)

Since David lives here in Rialto with us, and Roger lives only 5 miles away in Fontana, we only needed John here to have all five brothers together.  After calling John, he drove down from his Taft home (near Bakersfield), about three hours north.  He arrived around 2 pm yesterday.

Sondra barbecued steaks, and we had dinner for twelve:  Galen and Sondra, David, Noel and Janice and Mark, John, Roger and Julie and daughter Jennifer and Jennifer's friend Cassondra, and our friend George Nelson.  George has met the entire family in the last several years.

We sat and talked and laughed and talked and laughed.  Stories were told and retold.  It was an evening of pure joy and great memories.  We called mom in Shawnee, and she shared in our time for a brief moments.  We wished she and our sister Marti could have been here for a quick family reunion of sorts.  All in all, it was a blessed night.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK Holiday Weekend

Last Saturday, a reception was held for our niece Jennifer (Roger and Julie's oldest) as she is leaving for training in Virginia for two months and then to South Asia for two years as a Journeyman missionary for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  She is excited and humbled by this new venture she will undertake.
Me, Jennifer and Sondra

Jennifer, Melissa and Daniel

Roger and Julie

That evening, some friends from Flagstaff called and we met them at Richie's Diner in Rancho Cucamonga for dinner.  Rich and Marissa Bowen have lived in Flagstaff for many years, and Marissa is Greg Freeman's sister.  We knew the Freeman family from the 1970s at the First Baptist Church in Rialto when I was a vounteer youth minister there.  Marissa was in my youth group back then.

Marissa and Rich

Then, on Sunday I had Jennifer come to our Vision Plus Church in Riverside to give her testimony and share how we can best pray for her as she goes overseas.  As a surprise, Jacob Stoutenburg visited our church, as he is on vacation from his job in Northern California at Mt. Hermon Youth Camp.  We also observed the ordinance of the Lord's Supper in the worship hour.
Jennifer at The Vision Plus Church

Jacob and Galen

The Communion Table

After church, we went over to California Baptist University to eat the Sunday Brunch with Rich and Marissa, Greg and his work partner Steve.  Then we drove down to San Diego to be with Shawn and Crystal and Bailey, as they had taken their fifth-wheel trailer to Mission Bay for the holiday weekend.  We spent the night in the trailer too, coming home around 5 pm this afternoon.
Shawn and Crystal's Trailer

Bailey in the swings at the Campground.

Bailey looking at the ocean at La Jolla Cove.

I just got a call from my mechanic, and his first words were, "I've got good news for you."  Those are sweet to hear when talking to someone who is working on your car.  He said he has the engine put back in my Chrysler Sebring and has been driving it yesterday and today to make sure all is well.  It is such a blessing, as we thought  we needed to put a new engine in.  I feel blessed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Planning with the Church Calendar

It has been quiet around here lately.  Meche was here for two and a half weeks with David, and we got used to more hustle and bustle and activity.  Especially because of her presence and because of the holiday season.  All the Christmas stuff is down and put away.  Meche has flown back home safely.  Evan was gone the weekend, going snow-boarding and softball game and all.  So, it was a quiet and chilly weekend around here.

Saturday I attended a monthly meeting at our denominational Association Office in Riverside.  I picked up Pastor George (of our Chatsworth mission church) and we had breakfast and met with other pastors for the morning.  It was a session on the importance of being faithful in every way with our spouses - physically, emotionally, spiritually.  The stress and toil of ministry can hinder our relationships with family, and therefore we must guard our family unity carefully.  Having gone through some difficult times in the past, it is always a good reminder to protect the valuable relationship I have with a wonderrful wife.  Our marriages are a treasure to take care of in both open and quiet ways.

Sunday was a day in which God's spirit was very evident.  The music ministered to us and the message seemed to touch the hearts of many, as quite a few came down the aisle for prayer and commitment.  I preached from Matthew chapter 2 in which Joseph took Mary and Jesus down to Egypt, having been told to go in a dream by the angel of God.  Change is always hard, especially going to a foreign country to survive.  Then, some years after in a later dream, he was called to return home to Nazareth.  Going home is never the same, as our life's circumstances have changed.  We must start our lives anew and see the future with a new perspective.  God gives us grace and strength in all our new beginnings.

Sunday evening we had a church planning meeting.  At the end of this month, we are holding a Celebration Worship Service to highlight our tenth year as a church.  On the first Sunday of January 2001, we held our very first worship service with a handful of people.  It truly has been an amazing journey in these intervening years.

I woke up today with a congested chest and not feeling very well at all.  I am staying home, resting and doing what I need to do so I can get well.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, David

Yesterday was Thursday, January 6.

On January 6, 1944, a little baby named David Lee Greenwalt was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  So, yesterday was David's sixty-seventh birthday.  It was Meche's last day before she left to travel back home to Tuxtla-Gutierrez, Chiapas.  So, Sondra and I took David and Meche to a restaurant called Dave & Buster's in the Ontario Mills area.  While there, he got a birthday call from his daughter, Lisa, who lives in Seattle.  What a wonderful day it was.

David likes cobbler, so Sondra made a berry cobbler for Wednesday evening after dinner at Applebee's.  But, for his "birthday day," she made an applesauce cake with real whipped cream.  Actually, Meche was willing to help make the cake by mixing and stirring the ingredients, so Sondra guided her through the process.  Meche did fine, and it was delicious.  There was a reason for the cake being applesauce, as that was the cake that mom (Grandma Greenwalt in Oklahoma) used to make for him every birthday when he was growing up.  So, this brought back memories from days gone by.

It seems like we talk of the "old days" more and more now!  It is actually quite fun to remember some of the things we experienced as kids and as a family back in the 1950s.  Quite entertaining, as we recall several of the funny incidents in our childhood!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Year 2011 A.D.

In this Anno Domini (Year of our Lord) 2011, may we start with a heart to bless God.  We seem to always want God to bless us, but we need to bless him as well.  The Psalmist said it clearly, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me.  Bless his holy name."  To bless another is to show worth.  When we bless God, we speak about and indeed show his worth to all.  His worth is beyond comprehension, as his love is unbounded and free.  Let us begin this year with a desire to know him and serve him more fully.

The end of last year was so much fun, with Meche here with us for the holidays to see David.  It seems like our days were always punctuated with special times and places to eat.  We wanted to enjoy the company of one another with eating and fellowship.

Last Wednesday, we went to Red Lobster as Meche was looking forward to a dinner there.  On Thursday, we had some gift cards for Claim Jumper and decided that was the night to eat there.  On Friday (which was New Year's Eve) we went to a small "hole-in-the-wall" Italian pizza and pasta diner and had the best pizza.  On Saturday, we went to see True Grit at the local theater and were thoroughly entertained.  That was New Year's Day so we went early and were pleased to find that the shows were not crowded at that time period.  That evening we ate leftovers and party snacks, staying up (napping every once in a while) until midnight.  We poured some bubbly (Martinelli's Sparkling Cider), toasted and went directly to bed!

Sunday morning was church.  What a wonderful way to start the year.  I preached on developing a deeper relationship with our Father in heaven through the disciplines of love - time in prayer, Bible study, worship, testimony, giving, servant ministry work, and fellowship with his people.  A man talked to me after church, wanting to give a substantial sum of money to help our ministries as he was recently blessed by a family member.  Another couple living together came to me with their pledge of abstinence until I am able to do their wedding ceremony.  It was an awesome day in the Lord's presence.

Sunday afternoon we met at Cuca's Mexican Restaurant for lunch.  Monday morning, David and Meche and I went to a local Mexican market named El Super, which has a small "food court" with all kinds of ready-cooked foods to eat on the premises or take home.  We went and ate breakfast there!  I had Mexican eggs, rice and chili verde (pork meat) with corn tortillas.  So tasty and good.  Tuesday we had breakfast at a Mexican place called Las Playas, where you get chips and salsa with breakfast.  Tonight, we dine at Appleby's and start saying farewell to Meche, as she leaves tomorrow very late in the evening.  It will be sad to see her go.  It has been so enjoyable for us all, but naturally more so to David.  He will miss her greatly as she flies back to Chiapas.

In conclusion, I have decided to take up a new occupation.....I will now start being a food and restaurant critic.....ha ha.