Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Celebration

Easter Sunday was a blessed day for us.

But, first, let me share what last week was like.  Some good friends of ours has a son, and that young man asked me many months ago to do the wedding ceremony for him and his fiance.  They set their wedding for Friday, April 22.  I did not look at my calendar those many months ago.  I just knew that I would clear the date and fit in the wedding.

Well, as you can see, last Friday was Good Friday.  Anyway, the rehearsal was last Wednesday.  The wedding was at a very nice place with hardwood floors and was multi-level.  In fact, in the past it was a packing shed for the citrus industry (mainly oranges from the many groves in the Riverside and Inland Empire area).  It has a very historic look with its old brick exterior, and the building has been kept up quite well.

Saturday was a big  birthday party for Bailey at Shawn and Crystal's house in Ontario.  There was a jumper for the kids, a barbecue of hamburgers and hot dogs, a pinata filled with candy, birthday cake and presents from the many friends who came.  It was a good time but very tiring for me.  Actually, I went home early to get all the last things ready for our big Easter worship service.

This Easter Sunday was very special indeed.  We had two baptisms, one was an adult lady and the other was a seven-year old girl.  Also, as part of the day, I had been asked to do a Baby Dedication for two young children, an 11-month old baby boy and a 22-month old little girl.  These were brother and sister, and the parents are quite young and have a great love for the Lord.

The grandparents were there for the service, and they were all smiles.  In fact, the girl who was baptized was the older sister to these two youngsters who were dedicated.

My message for the day was The First Seven Words of the Risen Savior.  Many times, a sermon has been preached on the Last Seven Words of Christ when he was on the cross.  In the gospel of John, I used the narrative of the resurrection and the appearance of Christ at the tomb.  His words were about victory, celebration, peace, joy, comfort, relationship and proclamation of the Good News..

Because of the week's activities for both me and Sondra, we were not prepared to do a home-cooked Easter meal (which Sondra always does).  So, we decided to go out for lunch after church.  We went to the Easter Brunch at the nearest Marie Callender's restaurant and we were pleased.  There were seven of us -- me, Sondra, Crystal, Shawn, Bailey, David and Alden.  It was very crowded and busy, but it very pleasant and enjoyable at the same time.  There was so much to choose from, and we made it worthwhile!

It truly was a blessed day, with so much to be thankful for.  The question for the world is, "Do you believe in Easter?"  I do, because I am confident that Jesus died and was buried and was raised from the grave for the sins of the world.  My sins, included.  I know that my Redeemer lives, and I shall see him some day face to face.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Funeral For Another Special Lady

Again, we were at the church on Friday morning.  This time it was for another memorial service.  A very good friend of the church, Rilla Hubbard, passed away and her family requested that the service be held at our Vision Plus Church.

Rilla lived a wonderful, full life.  She loved the Lord.  She had a fine husbnad (who passed away over 10 years ago) and they raised their kids to know who Jesus was.  She wanted desperately to be a missionary as a teenager, but God had other plans.  God used Rilla to encourage, support and pray for hundreds of missionaries and pastors and loved ones through the years.  After attending BIOLA (Bible Institute of Los Angeles, which is now Biola University), she was active in church work and home life and career work, all at the same time.

Rilla was living in San Clemente when I met her.  She showed up at our church one Sunday morning in January 2001, the first month of our new church start.  When we asked why she was at our little place of worship (with only about 17 people in attendance in those beginning days), she said, "I have a daughter who is married and has four girls, and I am trying to find a church for them to attend."  Her daughter, Cindy, lives about two blocks from the church.

Cindy, by her own admission, had gone the way of the world in drugs and hard living.  Little by little, Cindy began to bring her four girls to church.  Cindy got active and became our church secretary, as well as one of our strongest youth leaders.  We baptized the girls as they came to saving faith in Jesus.  But Cindy's husband, Mike, never came except on special events (and that was rare for him).  Cindy's mother-in-law, Betty, started attending and became our Women's Ministry leader until she passed away last year.  Rilla continued to attend our church whenever she was in town to see her kids and grandkids, coming all the way from San Clemente each time.  For a few years, she sent a monthly check to help our church financially, which no one knew about except Cindy and me.

The memorial service was a time of recounting the precious years and great memories of one who lived a life for the Lord.  She was compassionate, caring, loving and kind.  She just made everyone feel special.

After the service on Friday, Mike (Cindy's husband) came to me when tears in his eyes.  He said, "Galen, I will be here this Sunday morning."  I began to almost weep myself.  Mike, a nice young man who had strayed for many years away from God, was comiing home!  Coming back to let God lead him again in life.

Sunday morning, Mike sat close to Cindy and the kids.  He made good on his promise.  We had the Lord's Supper at the close of the service.  With the other church folk, Mike walked the aisle with Cindy for this special time, as we had the elements on the communion table for members to come forward and partake.  When he walked by me to pick up the elements of communion, he smiled.  God was so very present in our time of worship!

Rilla made a difference in this world.  If only for Mike, it was all worth it.  We are so blessed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rabbi At Church

A very good friend of mine is a rabbi of a Messianic synagogue in nearby Lake Elsinore.  Rabbi Hilbrant has also become a Chief Rabbi, whereby he is spiritual mentor over 10 other rabbis and synagogues.  The other synagogues are located around the United States and abroad -- these others even include one in Kansas City, Missouri and two in Ethiopia (one of which has 1,800 members).

He shared his faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised Messiah and his passion for the homeland of Israel.  The "sabres are rattling" (trooops are massing), and it seems war is imminent with neighboring countries.  These may indeed be perilous times for our world.

I specifically asked the rabbi to share a message on the "glory of Heaven."  His depth of understanding was expressed in Hebraic terms of both the Old and New Testaments.  He pointed out that our American culture has permeated our view of heaven, and we must rather look at it in Biblical terms and Jewish thought.  Heaven is not so much the "castle in the great by and by," but rather the very "heaviness" (which is what the word "glory" means) of being in the presence of a holy God that brings joy and peace and comfort for eternity.

We took him to lunch and enjoyed a very engaging conversation about Jewish lineage (of which he is convinced that we as "Greenwalts" are definitely from Jewish descent).  Rabbi Hilbrant was pointed in his words as to what decisions we face in confronting our Jewish heritage.  It was extremely thought-provoking for me as I look at my life even now.  On a previous occasion, he presented me with a prayer shawl and a yarmulke as a gesture of welcoming me back into the "fold of the Jews."  His words:  "Welcome home, my son."  Very moving and emotional.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Two Days in San Diego

Because of various factors, we were not able to make a trip to Oklahoma while Sondra was off-track from her job at the local elementary school.  She works part-time while school is in session, so we wanted to do something while she was on "vacation."  As an alternative to our usual trip to Oklahoma to visit family and grandkids, we took a little two-day jaunt down to San Diego.  So, early this past Tuesday morning, we left town for the 100-mile trip to San Diego.

David was able to go, so we went and drove to areas that were familiar to him as well.  We drove by the Baptist church where dad used to pastor in Allied Gardens.  We went by our old house at 5411 Waring Road.  We went to a San Diego Padres ballgame at Petco Park downtown for Opening Day.  Crystal and Shawn had bought me tickets to attend, as a birthday gift given on my birthday (March 7).  Naturally, the game was sold out (therefore, it was wonderful that we already had tickets) and it was a great day to be at the ballpark.  Sunshine and baseball!  The Padres beat the San Francisco Giants 3-1, so it was a happy day for us Padres fans.  There was a young man sitting next to us (right next to David) who was from Allied Gardens, who was drunk and who was happy.....and who kept us entertained!  Just before the game, though, we had to stop at our favorite "hole in the wall" Mexican spot for taquitos (Taco Fiesta).

After the game we went to Anthony's Seafood Grotto for a wonderful dinner on the bay, and we got a window seat with a great view while dining!  We had shrimp and scallops and chowder and pineapple coleslaw, and it was delicious.  We spent the night at a Sheraton Four Seasons hotel nearby, which I was able to get on Priceline with a huge discount.

On Wednesday morning, we went to Old Town and ate at the famous breakfast place called Perry's.  We then drove to Lakeside (just east of San Diego) where we first lived when moving from Urbana, Illinois, to California in 1955.  We found Lindo Lake Park but could not find the old church or the old house we lived in.  Yes, much has changed and disappeared.  David mentioned how the town of Santee (next to Lakeside) was just a spot in the road back in the "old days."

We went by the first mission established in California, the Mission San Diego de Alcala.  It is still being used today for Sunday masses.  We went by Hoover High School, where David graduated.  We also passed Roosevelt Junior High, where David attended for a while.  It was near the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park, so we saw the museum buildings and the Old Globe Theater where Shakespeare plays are held each summer.

It was a gorgeous day as we walked around La Jolla Cove and smelled the salty ocean air.  We ended the day by eating at Tio Leo's Mexican restaurant in Allied Gardens on Mission Gorge Road.  (By the way, we drove by where our old house was on Mission Gorge Road, but the house has been replaced by apartment buildings and condos.)  It was a fun trip and we drove home with fond memories of both this trip and years gone by.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bailey's Real Birthday Party

Monday, April 4, was the real day of Bailey's birth.  So, we had a "real" birthday party for her, with special guests and family.  K. L Freeman (our landlord and very good friend of almost 40 years) and his wife (Miles) were here with us.  Alden came over for the special dinner.  And, naturally, Shawn and Crystal and Bailey, as well as their little dog Boomer.  With me and Sondra and David, there were 9 of us and a dog!  We managed to squeeze around the table for chicken and rice and beans and birthday cake.  Bailey squealed with each new toy and loved blowing out the candles on the cake.

Earlier in the day, Sondra picked up Bailey and took her to Lowe's to buy some items to make a garden of flowers.  Bailey helped with the soil, the flowers, the watering and the care of the new garden!  She is so proud.

It was a day of fun, a day of sun, and a day of "done" with planting!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday and Birthday Party

Sunday was a good day.  I preached on the last few verses of Matthew chapter 4, where Jesus was teaching and preaching and healing.  I went into depth about understanding how God heals when we pray.  God is not our little puppet who does our every bidding.  He is our amazing Father in heaven who gives us exactly what we need in his glorious timing.  We must pray according to his plan and his ways, which are eternal and not temporal.

Does God answer prayer?  Yes.  Does God answer pray for the sick?  Yes.  Does God sometimes answer in ways that seem miraculous?  Yes.  Those questions are not up for discussion.  The difficulty is understanding that our sufferings and sicknesses are normal, not experiences that come from evil or punishment.  Suffering is the normal expectation for every believer!  That is why we pray.  The "mystery" of our faith is the awareness that God is in control and his ways are redemptive in nature.

We can pray with our human desires, but we must allow them to fall into line with God's.  Is is an undeniable fact that not everyone we pray for is healed.  But we pray with our faith and our hopes.  God can do anything he wants to, and we find solace in his wisdom and comfort and purpose for our lives.  I read a quote that said:  "Healing in the Bible is not becoming what we were but becoming all that God intends us to be."  Very powerful indeed.

It is not always God's will to heal physically because then no sick believer would die.  It is often God's will to heal, and that is why we trust him fully.  Both these statements are true, so we must not focus on one to the exclusion of the other.  We must keep our faith and our eyes on God's will.

Then, Sunday evening, Shawn and Crystal brought Bailey over for a small birthday dinner.  We had cake and ice cream after Bailey opened some presents.  She was so excited and fun to watch.  Today, April 4, is her actual birthday and we will celebrate again.  Here are some photos from yesterday.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

San DIego with Bailey

Next Monday, April 4, is our grand-daughter Bailey's birthday.  She will turn two years old.  We wanted to take her on a little "birthday trip" before the day, so we picked her up this past Thursday morning very early and drove down to San Diego.  We didn't do any big spending on  theme parks and such, as we just wanted to make it a special fun day with Papa G (me) and Grandma G (Sondra).

We drove over to Mission Beach first.  It was a gorgeous, sunny and warm day.  Bailey was napping, and we drove over to Allied Gardens (a suburban area of San Diego near Qualcomm Stadium) and found a park to play.  Allied Gardens is where I grew up for my elementary and junior high school years.  It is a memory-laden place for me, very pleasant and enjoyable to visit.

After lunch at Taco Fiesta, we headed over to Balboa Park in downtown San Diego.  They have a carousel there, and they used to have a small train for children to ride.  The train is gone, and the carousel was closed until summer.

So we found another playground, this time with much sand for Bailey to use her plastic shovel and bucket.  They had a lot of miniature animals to climb and touch in this park, and that was fun for Bailey.

To end the trip, we stopped at the Foster Freeze in Allied Gardens on Waring Road for ice cream.  It was a warm day, and chocolate ice cream in a cup, vanilla ice cream in a cone, and a hot fudge and peanut butter sundae topped off a wonderful day.

Friday was a day of catching up on errands and resting a little.  David and I also went to get haircuts as well.  Just as a sneak photo, I got out my cell phone and took a picture of David getting his haircut.  I commented that all the hair from previous haircuts were dark in color, but after his time in the barber's chair there was a flurry of white hair settling down on the floor.....ha ha.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Church, Funeral, Hospital Visits

This past Sunday, we hosted a singing group from California Baptist University, a small group called JOY.  There were eight singers (four young men, four young women) and a pianist.  Naturally, all are CBU students.  They were just wonderful, in their singing and their testimonies and their personalities.  They really blessed us with their concert.  One of the young men in the group had his fiancee in attendance, and she is the daughter of missionaries in Australia.  I mentioned that one of my pastor friends (John Baynes) is a missionary there as well.  And, yes, she said she knows John and his wife Carmen who are working with the Aboriginal tribes.  Small world indeed!

We took the group to lunch following the worship hour, going to a little "hole in the wall" Mexican restaurant named Dos Pablos.  It was good food and great fellowship.  Several friends joined us as well for this lunch gathering -- Kaye L. Freeman and his wife, as well as Greg Freeman and his shop employee Steve -- as they had come to our church especially for this special concert at our church.  And, of course, my brother David and Sondra's brother Alden were with us.  I think we had almost 20 individuals descend on that little restaurant for lunch!  Did I tell you we had little granddaughter Bailey with us too?

During the worship service, Jennifer (my niece -- Roger's daughter), shared her testimony of learning and preparation back at the International Mission Board headquarters for a two-year mission trip to South Asia.  Because of safety precautions in other countries where missionaries are not allowed to be free and open, she cannot divulge her place of service except to immediate family.  She has a great love for the Lord and expressed it well to our congregation, as we are a part of her Prayer Team as she serves overseas.

As a bonus in our time of worship, we were able to share that one of our members won a prize worth at least $700 at the "Price Is Right" taping last week.  Lyn Young was one of 18 individuals who went on a church outing down to Hollywood and was blessed to win!  What excitement!

On Monday, I served as the officiant at the funeral of one of our precious church members, Bev Grillo.  She was the mother of Sharon Harrison, one of my wife's best friends for almost 40 years!  Bev began to attend our church, just after we started it in 2001.  Sharon brought her to our church because we were close by Bev's house.  Bev had hardly ever attended church in her life before she came to The Vision Plus Church.  After some weeks, I spoke with her and led her to saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  If our church has been there just for Bev, it has been worth it!  What peace and joy filled the chapel during the memorial service, even through the sorrow and sadness of the occasion.

On Wednesday, Sondra went with me to Kaiser Hospital Riverside to visit Jen, a young lady (early 30s in age) who has been diagnosed with both lupus and leukemia.  She is the girlfriend of one of Sharon Harrison's sons (Chad).  She was in good spirits and has dealt with health issues for many years, even at her young age.

After that, we drove down to San Clemente to the home of a very dear friend, Rilla Hubbard.  Rilla is the mom of our church secretary and volunteer youth worker (Cindy Guerin).  Rilla came to our church in the early days of our church start in 2001 also.  She had come to visit her daughter (and son-in-law and grandchildren) for the weekend, and she wanted to find a church for them to attend.  We can still vividly remember her coming and having us pray for Cindy and family.  Cindy and her four girls began to attend, get involved and several were baptized after salvation.  Sadly, Rilla is has been diagnosed with breathing problems that will not go away, and hospice has been called in for her last days.  God has been so good to her for many years, and she says she is perfectly content when the Lord will take her to home in Heaven!

We were blessed to be in her presence on Wednesday afternoon.