Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

This is a relaxing day for me, but it is also a time to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

I knew some friends in high school who were casualties of the Vietnam conflict.  I remember a young man from the church in Bakersfield that my dad pastored.  This young man lost a leg in battle and was flown to the military hospital in San Francisco where his parents and my parents went to see him as he recovered.  There was much heartache then, as there is now with the war in the Middle East region.  I just got word today that a young man was killed yesterday in Afghanistan, and this man's father was in our church just several months ago leading worship songs in our congregation.  We must champion the cause of those who have lost their lives in the struggles for peace.

The military is part of my life story as well.  My dad was a chaplain during World War II and served in Patton's army.  My brother David served in the Air Force and was sent to Vietnam in the mid-1960s.  My brother Noel served in the Navy and was on an aircraft carrier that was part of the fleet for the first Middle East conflicts in the 1990s. 

And, yes, I served in the military also.  Because I dropped out of college in 1969, I became eligible for the draft.

I was confronted intellectually and emotionally and religiously about war and conflict between nations.  I had to make a decision to allow myself to be drafted.  I remember standing with many other draftees at the reception station in Fresno on March 18, 1971.  We raised our hands in affirmation and then verbally committed our lives to serve in the military.  I specifically recall one individual who refused to be inducted.  I don't know all the consequences of his actions, but I do know the consequences of my actions.

I went immediately to Ft. Ord for basic training and AIT (advanced infantry training).  Upon completion, I went to Ft. Benning to attend Airborne School and NCO (non-commissioned officer) training.  I then waited to hear about my duty station after all that training.  Half of our unit was sent to Vietnam, and the other half to Europe.  I was in the half that went to Europe, as I received orders for HQ 8th Infantry Division in Bad Kreuznach, Germany.

I often wonder how different my life would have been, had I been sent to Southeast Asia for a tour of duty.  It is something that I will never know.

Yesterday, we had a special time at church to remember those fallen heroes in defense of our country, and then we honored the veterans who were in attendance at our worship service as well.  Flags and red-white-and-blue leis were presented to each veteran.  Oh, yes, there were some pieces of Tootsie Roll candy wrapped in paper designed to look like American flags that were part of the day too.  It was a special moment for our little church.

We barbecued yesterday afternoon.  We may barbecue this evening as well.  The weather is nice, with the temperature around 80 degrees.  The skies are blue and the breezes have kept the smog away.  I thank God for my life and all the joy that I experience day to day in his love.

Friday, May 27, 2011

How Can I Help?

We have seen the great devastation in the aftermath of tornadoes in our nation recently.

How can we help?  What can we do?  There are so many organizations who try to assist but are bogged down with bureaucratic problems, and so help is so slow in response.  I remember when the Landers earthquake hit near us in California some years ago.  The Red Cross and others had difficulty in really meeting the needs of the local residents who were homeless and shaken emotionally.

Yes, we can pray.  Yes, we can call and encourage some.  But, sometimes we are given opportunities to act in very physical ways to share our love and compassion.  That happened to me in the last two days.

On Wednesday, I received a phone call from the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of Coronado Stone, a man named Brian.  He quickly informed me that Lennar Homes (a major building corporation) had contacted all their suppliers, trade partners and consultants to join them in a project for those affected in Joplin, Missouri, and other cities destroyed by tornado activity.  Lennar wanted to do something that would directly benefit families and individuals.  (Coronado Stone is a major supplier of materials for their homes.)  Lennar was setting up a staging area at their West Coast corporate headquarters in Aliso Viejo (Orange County), California, on Friday (today) for drop-offs.  They have a direct connection with another organization that will be trucking the food and supplies immediately to the hardest hit areas, beginning in Joplin.

So, I was called to help Coronado Stone gather up supplies and food to take to Lennar.  I was given a check on Thursday (yesterday) morning around 8:30 am.  I was given instructions to buy:  (1) as much food and drinking water as possible at our local food bank, (2) tarps, duct tape and rope, and (3) towels and wash cloths.

I had some men from the church help as we set out to accomplish our mission.

First, we first went to the food bank and bought food and drink at the price of 18 cents per pound, no matter what we bought.  We went through the warehouse and purchased over $380 worth of food supplies.  The weight of all we took out was nearly 2 tons (almost 4,000 pounds).  All of the items were non-perishable, naturally -- pasta, crackers, cookies, cans of vegetables, water and so much more.

Next, we went over to Harbor Freight to get the tarps, duct tape and rope.  With my spending limit in mind, I got as much as I could.  When talking to the manager about our purpose, and when I let him know I was a pastor of a local church he gave us a 20 percent discount.  The total tab came to a little over $280 with the discount.

Lastly, we went to the Big Lots distribution center that has a retail store connected.  Knowing that they would have a huge supply in inventory, I spoke with a clerk there about getting a big purchase of towels and such.  They brought out a big box which had every kind of towel, hand cloth and wash cloth in bulk packages.  I asked the price, got a quote and told him what I wanted.  He came back, rang up the transaction and also gave me a 20 percent discount because we were a non-profit corporation making the purchase.  The total bill was just over $200.

In all, we gathered over 2 tons of food and supplies for $860, with the value of the supplies well over $1000.  It was a tiring day, as we did no finish our task until around 2 pm.  But we rejoiced in what God had accomplished through us.  We were thrilled and humbled to be even just a little part of helping our neighbors across the nation who are hurting.

May we have more opportunities to reach out and minister to others.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Last week, I worked with another pastor in the area on the program for an upcoming Men's Retreat which will be held the first week of June.  It is always a sweet time of fellowship and bonding and spiritual growth for the guys in the church.  Sadly, we are still in an economic slump in which many of our families are hurting financially, and this impacts the ability for many to be able to attend.  We are trying to find ways to assist those who cannot go because of money issues.  We are trusting God to show us his providence and grace in this situation.

Last Tuesday evening, my friend (Pastor George Nelson) went with me to visit the young man (Carlos Vasquez) who was in the hospital after being severely beaten in a robbery.  After surgeries to alleviate some head trauma three weeks ago when it happened, we had seen Carlos with all the tubes and when he was just barely out of an induced coma.  We had seen him a week later and he had improved greatly, but he was still barely able to speak up and could not walk.  This past Tuesday, however, we walked into the hospital room and he was up and walking and quite alert.  More importantly, we found out quickly that he was doing so well that he was being discharged to go home!  What an awesome recovery.  We told him how much we (and our churches) had been praying for him, and he smiled and hugged us.  It was amazing!

On Thursday, I had my checkup for Coumadin (blood thinner) at the VA hospital, and my numbers were good.  Then, Sondra and I took a drive down to San Diego for the express purpose of visiting some friends (Bruce and Margaret Wahlen) for a short while and then to go sit at the beach and relax for the day.  Well, we arrived at our friends' home and Margaret was working a long day.  So, we knew Bruce had been having some deep health issues so we stayed and talked.  It was a time ordained by God for us.  We had such a good, long talk about a lot of things about life.  He needed us and we needed to be there for him.  We didn't leave the house until four hours later.  We were blessed to share in friendship that day.  Bruce and Margaret are such dear friends, and it meant so much to spend time with Bruce at such a place in life's journey.

Sondra and I then went over to the beach, found a little diner by the ocean and had a wonderful dinner.  We drove home, just happy and relaxed and fulfilled (and filled.....ha ha).

Last Friday, our church had a trip planned for Hollywood.  There is a new Fran Drescher show (called Happily Divorced) coming out on the TV Land channel, and they were taping the first show of the season.  Our church was paid $15 per person to be a part of the audience (and therefore part of the laugh track) for this sitcom.  There were 9 of us who went and it was a fun time.  One person in our church group won a huge teddy bear during the evening, another won a script autographed by all the cast members, another won a T-shirt and CD, and even Sondra was chosen and won a chance for a prize (but alas did not win the prize)!  The taping of the show did not start until about 5 pm and did not end until 11 pm.  We stopped quickly for a bite to eat (drive-through) at a Jack-In-The-Box and continued home.  Sondra and I did not get home until 2 am.  I am not young enough for that.....ha!  I was wiped out physically for most of the day.

Saturday evening, though, Sondra and I went to a church member's house for a surprise Anniversary Party for a wonderful couple in our church.  The couple was celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary and we had a great homemade Mexican dinner.  The lady (whose anniversary it was) almost broke down in tears, saying she had never had a surprise party in her life and that this was so special.  The little things we do make such a difference!

On Sunday, we had a good time of praise and worship (and, of course, an awesome sermon.....ha ha).  Anyway, after the service a young lady named Cynthia sat down and talked with me.  She had been absent from our congregation for some months.  She explained that she had messed up again and gone back to drugs, but then she had been sent to a rehab center in Hemet (about an hour away) to get clean.  She had been doing some reading there at rehab and happened upon a devotional book.  On the inside cover, there was a written inscription to someone and it had had my signature!  When this lady read "Pastor Galen" at the end of the incription, she began to cry and knew that it was meant for her to be there.  She looked at me Sunday and said, "Pastor, it's like you were there reaching out to me while I was there in rehab."  What a powerful moment fo rme.  My gift of a book to someone else (apparently a person who had been dealing with addiction) with my written encouragement was used again for someone else!  God is awesome!  Incredible!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Evan's Birthday

This past Tuesday, I gave a short message for the 8 am Devotional Time at the Coronado Stone manufacturing plant.  I am always heartened and encouraged by the ones who take their break time to come and listen to the Word of God.  I am still amazed that an owner of a company will offer a time of day for spiritual uplift in our day and time.  My devotional talk was on the motives that we have in daily decisions -- are we motivated by greed or are we guided by the principle of generosity.  Greed versus generosity.  That is important in today's society.  We as Christians must have the mind of Christ, which moves us to giving and serving and ministering and generosity!

On Wednesday, we had our midweek Bible study time at the church.  I led the study on the passage in the gospel of John where Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection from the grave.  Besides the actual text and comments, I took time to help those attending to memorize the names of the 12 disciples.  Most people do not know them by heart -- Simon Peter, Andrew (Simon's brother), James and John (the sons of Zebedee), Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus Lebbeus (Jude), Simon the Canaanite, James the son of Alpheus, and Judas Iscariot.  There were several who were willing to repeat the names from memory from just those few minutes of learning.  It was fun.

On Thursday evening, Evan came home from work.  It was May 12, his birthday.  He asked for Mexican food, specifically for chili rellenos.  So we had enchiladas, rice, beans, chips and homemade chili rellenos.  He said he wanted cheesecake for his birthday dessert.  So, Sondra made a homemade cheesecake with cherries on top!  Shawn and Crystal and Bailey came over for the festivites also.  Evan was all smiles as he opened his birthday bags, showing the clothes he had picked out when he went shopping with Sondra a few days earlier!

It is interesting that he was born 34 years ago at the Kaiser Hospital about 5 minutes from where we live now.  When he was born, I had quit my job at Kaiser Steel and we sold our home, as I made the commitment to return to college for ministry preparation.

Just two months earilier of that very year, 1977, I fully surrendered to the call of the ministry.  I realized and understood without hesitation or reservation that God had called me to serve as a pastor in ministry.  I have never regretted it, and I have found great joy and contentment in that call.  I have never questioned it, as I know beyond any doubt that God has guided my steps all these years in both sweet times and hard times.  No regrets!

Yesterday (Friday), Crystal was not feeling well at all.  She left work early and went straight to bed.  We picked up Bailey from day care and took her to the park before coming home.  We had Bailey overnight to help give Crystal some time to get well and not pass on any sickness to Bailey.  It seems as if time kind of comes to standstill, when there is a two-year old in the house!  We stop and pay attention to her and have a great time.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Writing A Book

My brother David is trying to complete his manuscript to get a book published soon.  The plot takes place mainly in the state of Chiapas in Mexico, where he lived for many years.  He has been in contact with several companies who do self-publishing for writers.

It has caused me to think about publishing some of the things I have written over the years.  Specifically, I wrote a self-study book to help guide individuals as they read through the Bible.  The book is written in Question and Answer format to assist the reader in focusing on content when reading Scripture.  I have found that most people (yes, most Christians) have not read the Bible all the way through.  So, this book was originally written about 8 years ago when some ladies in my church asked for something that would help them read the Bible.

Therefore, I have spent the last several weeks re-working my manuscript and getting it ready for self-publication.  Now, all I need is the financing to get it done.....ha!  Please send all your donations to me as soon as you can.....chuckle, chuckle!  Seriously, I really believe this will get done soon.

Last week was filled with some sadness.  Since I am still assisting the Sober Living Program for parolees at Coronado Stone, I see what problems and challenges the men face after release.  One young man was beaten severely and robbed at a convenience store last week.  Taken to the local county hospital and put into an induced coma, this individual will not be coming home anytime soon.  I went to visit him last Tuesday morning.  Tubes and monitors everywhere.  He was conscious and mouthed small responses when we talked to him.  Saturday, I visited him again and the tubes were gone and he was alert and focused.  He still faces an uphill battle to regain his strength and physical abilities, but we are praying for God's mighty hand of healing to prevail.  He was greatly encouraged each time we visited.

Our daughter Crystal had a birthday on April 30, and she and Shawn (and Bailey) went to San Francisco for a weekend birthday trip.  Because of that, we were not able to have a birthday dinner or celebration on her actual birthday.  As Evan's birthday is now coming up (May 12), everyone agreed that a birthday dinner for them both on the weekend between their birthdays would be fun.  So, last Friday night we all went out to Eddie's Cucina Italiana dinner house and had a great time.  Here is a picture of Evan (holding Bailey) and Crystal.

On Saturday, I went to a monthly pastors' meeting at the Associational office in Riverside.  The ladies of the church had a picnic fellowship planned at a park nearby, so I went over and took some pictures as they prepared to start their day of fun and food.  Sondra had been asked to lead a short devotional, so she prepared and shared some thoughts on the Shunamite woman who showed great faith in God.

Yesterday (Sunday) was Mother's Day.  What an exciting day we had at church.  Our music minister is a truck driver for a concrete company, and he was called to work early Sunday morning so he was late.  A new member of the church, who has some background in leading music and worship in the church setting, agreed to step in for the day.  During the service, we honored the moms who were in attendance, giving them an array of gifts - flowers, perfume boxes, and glass votive candle holders with tea light candles of various scents.  My message was about the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus, asking for healing for her demon-possessed daughter.  Because of her persistence and humility and faith, Jesus healed the girl.  Jesus said to the woman, "You have great faith."  What a powerful statement.  We all can take note and come to the Lord with boldness and know that he cares for us.  We need that belief and trust, whereby God will say to us, "You have great faith!"

Evan and Callie came to our church for the worship service.  Afterwards, Evan took Callie home for her to spend the day with her mom.  Then Evan joined us (Sondra and me and Alden) for dinner at the Lone Star restaurant in Corona.  It was busy, but because we only had a party of four we were seated imimediately!  The place has waitresses who do a bit of line dancing at various times of the meal.  The food was great and Sondra was very pleased with it all.

Yesterday evening we went to the local Olive Garden for a birthday dinner of Mr. K. L. Freeman's wife, Miles.  Mr. Freeman is a close family friend who is up in years and invites us to many special events.  We were tired but knew it was meaningful to him and we enjoyed the evening.

I slept very well last night!

Monday, May 2, 2011

This morning, I was lazy about getting up.  My Sunday was a longer day than usual, as far as being out and about.

Yesterday, We had a wonderful worship service as we saw people in action with love and giving. 

A young boy in our church has just started attending lately, as he is currently living with his grandparents.  This youngster will be graduating from the 8th grade soon, and the school has a trip planned as they will go to Universal Studios in Hollywood.  This young man, knowing that his sister wants to go on another local outing at Scandia (a miniature golf complex with video game rooms), was also aware that there was not enough money for both he and his sister to go.

The boy told his grandpa that he would forego his trip in order that his sister could go on hers.  A lady in our church found out about it and decided to help.  Without letting the family know, she went around and got as many church folk to donate for this young man.  Within a short time, we gave almost $60 to the grandfather to help the boy go to Hollywood with his class.  With a giving heart, willing to give up his enjoyment of a special outing, we wanted to reward that kind of kid!  The church was blessed as it gave.

After church, Sondra and I went over to 29 Palms (about 95 miles away).  The church there is a church that I pastored from 1986 - 1992.  We still have such good friends and fond memories of the ministry during those years.  One friend in particular, Doris Robinson, is a very special person indeed.  She was the youth leader and her husband was one of the finest deacons I ever had in church life.

We actually went to 29 Palms to see her and some friends to eat out and then planned to attend a special service at the church.  The church was hosting the president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (in northern California) where I graduated from.  However, as the afternoon progressed, we felt inclined to sit and talk with Doris at her home for several hours instead of attending the service.

I won't bore you with details of our visit, but it was one of those unique times where friends share and time is not a factor.  We arrived in 29 Palms around 3:30 pm, ate dinner at Edchada's Mexican Restaurant in town, and then talked until 8:30 pm when we finally drove back home.  We were tired but full of joy.  It was a special evening.

This morning, being lazy, David and I picked up our brother Roger in nearby Fontana.  We then went to Bob's Big Boy in Norco for breakfast.  I love their breakfast bar and it only costs $6.99, all you can eat.  When I can go to a place and have all the biscuits and gravy I want, I'm in heaven.....ha ha.