Monday, November 28, 2011

Family and Friends

Last Thursday on Thanksgiving Day, it was a special time once more to be with family.  Sondra's brother, Alden, who lives here in Rialto came over and spent the day with us.  Evan and his girlfriend Callie were here for the Thanksgiving meal.  Shawn and Crystal and the two girls (Bailey and Brynnlee) were here as well.  It was a feast -- turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes (with a sweet pecan top), rolls, salad, homemade pumpkin pie with real whipped cream and homemade pecan pie.

The day was relaxed, enjoyable and fun.

No, we did not do the Black Friday craziness.  I spent a little time on the computer Friday morning around 10 am trying to find a few good deals.  But, by that time, the really amazing deals on TVs and computers and such were already sold out.  Sondra did go out to the stores to shop a little on Friday but came back early.  Too many crazy people and parking lots full.  Anyway, Shawn and Crystal brought the girls over and we got to take care of the kids while they (Shawn and Crystal) went out to buy a Christmas tree.

Saturday was a day to celebrate friendship.  One of our best friends, Sharon Harrison, turns 60 years old on November 28 (today as I write this), and a special surprise party (in the planning stages for several weeks) was put together in her honor.  Friends from the years past were invited -- those of us who came to know each other through church involvement.  There were many of us young couples who attended First Baptist Church of Rialto in the early 1970s when we were all first married and having kids.  We did everything together as couples - holidays, trips to Glorieta in the summer, birthdays, picnics, trips to the beach and all.  We all kind of went separate ways in geography and church life as vocations and life expanded our horizons, but never did we lose touch with each other.  We all now live within a 50-mile radius again.  So, this was the group that got together for a special night.  It was a reunion with a birthday as the center of focus!

The celebration was planned with everyone meeting at our house on Saturday evening 4:45 pm.  A limo had been lined up to arrive here at 5 pm.  Next, the limo would arrive at Sharon's house and she would be surprised, not only with the limo but who would be inside (all of us friends and her kids too)!  She was shocked and so surprised.  The limousine was a shiny white stretch Hummer.  The driver rolled out a little red carpet to make the occasion more special as Sharon came out to the limo.  It was great!

We had a such an enjoyable time just riding in the limo together -- with Sharon and Lorn Harrison, the Harrison boys (Michael, Ryan and his girlfriend Summer, Chad and his girlfriend Jen), Jim and Sandy Woolard, Daryl and Loretta Grapes, Jess and Mel Givens, Janet and Mike Castro, as well as me and Sondra.  I made a little trivia quiz about the year 1951 (the year Sharon was born) and we had fun with that.  We talked, hugged, laughed, reminisced, joked, cried and got wore out with old funny stories.  It was an evening filled with wonderful memories and catching up.  The party and celebration really happened in the limo, with an awesome time of renewed friendship and closeness with each other.

The dinner was planned and was held in a special back room of the Chart House restaurant on the beachfront in Redondo Beach.  We arrived at the restaurant a little after 7 pm.  We had choice of prime rib, salmon or chicken.  The food was delicious.  We left the restaurant a little after 9 pm, and we arrived back close to 11 pm.  We were full, we were tired and we were blessed!

On the way home in the limo, Sharon said it best when she thanked us for a wonderful evening, stating that this get-together was a tribute to our past years as a group of young adults going to church together, growing in the Lord together and enjoying the blessing of friendship and spiritual fellowship together.  What an  awesome time we had!

Sunday was a day to recall our love for the Lord and to give him thanks.  During an open time in the worship service for sharing the many things we were thankful for, I again had a "happy dollar" offering basket on the communion table in front of the pulpit area.  I teased the members into putting in a "happy dollar" (or more if they desired...and none if they didn't have any cash with them right then) as they shared their testimonies of thanksgiving to God.  It was a very moving and touching time, hearing many share their heartfelt thoughts.  My message was about the ten lepers who were healed, with only one returning to thank Jesus.  The question comes again, "Where are the othe nine?"  We must take time ourselves to thank the Lord for his grace and mercy and love and forgiveness.  We must not be like the "nine" who took so much for granted and went on with life.  Someone said, "If you receive today only the things you thanked God for yesterday, what would you have?"  A sobering thought indeed.  It is a powerful reminder to give thanks always.

After church, we were invited to a Mexican lunch with "Big Jim" and another church member.  It was a great time of fellowship and getting to know one other better.

This morning, Sondra is off to work.  She begins her "intervention teaching" with elementary students at a new school location -- Garcia Elementary School here in Rialto.  The intervention classes are to help at-risk kids who need more focused teaching in a small group setting to learn the basic skills of reading and writing.

She is looking forward to getting back in the classroom for a few hours a day (right now it is four hours a day, five days a week).  In addition, she is teaching basic English to parents (of the school children) at her old school, Myers Elementary.....this will only be two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) for a couple hours each of those days.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Today (the day before our Thanksgiving holiday), I just wanted to take time to reflect and enjoy some thoughts on Thanksgiving.  Here are a few random things to ponder:


                                Psalm 92: "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord."


Our first President, George Washington, made a proclamation for a national observance of a day of thanks. In part, he said:

"Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.....," to call the people of this country to set aside ".....a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.....that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, and that will be."



1. Thanksgiving Day is always the _______________ Thursday of November each year.
2. The Pilgrims landed in North America in December of what year? _______________
3. The ship on which the Pilgrims sailed to America was known by what name? _______________
4. The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the fall of what year? _______________
5. The first Thanksgiving was held in a place that was named _______________ in the state now known as Massachusetts.
6. What Native American Indians taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land? _______________
7. The name of the first Pilgrim leader was ______________________________.
8. How many days did the Pilgrims and Indians take to have a time of thanksgiving and communal feast? __________
9. What was the name of the Indian chief at the first Thanksgiving? _______________
10. The first national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation was made by President George Washington in the year __________.

1. fourth Thursday
2. 1620
3. Mayflower
4. 1621
5. Plymouth
6. Wampanoag
7. Gov. Willliam Bradford
8. 3 days
9. Massasoit
10. 1789



Someone made an informal but exhaustive study with children about Thanksgiving.
The results: "If Twinkies had drumsticks, turkeys would be a thing of the past on Thanksgiving Day."

Q. Can a turkey jump higher than the Empire State Building?
A. Yes, you knucklehead.....buildings can't jump!

Grandma said to grandson Joey: "What would you like for dessert on this Thanksgiving Day?"
Joey replied enthusiastically: "Pumpkin pie!"
Grandma, admonishing him, said: "Pumpkin pie...what? Say the magic word."
Joey: "Sorry, Grandma. Pumpkin pie Abracadabra!"


1.  I am thankful that I am not an atheist, one who has no hope for eternity.  I have a God who is real, and my eternal hope is secure in Jesus.
2.  I am thankful that I am not full of guilt and shame because of any past actions or thoughts, as they have been forgiven and erased.
3.  I am thankful that I am not a person who has no purpose in life, because my Father in heaven has given me a reason to live each day.
4.  I am thankful that I am not without a family who loves me, as I have an extended family that cares for me.
5.  I am thankful that I do not live with marital strife and dysfunction in the home, as I have a wife who loves me and supports me.
6.  I am thankful that I am not friendless, as I have seen so many who have built emotional walls around them to keep others out.
7.  I am thankful that I am not homeless, because I have ministered to so many who have nowhere to call home and are without shelter.
8.  I am thankful that I do not have to stress about finances, even when I have no money or prospects of help in sight, as God provides daily.
9.  I am thankful that I do not have to worry about my health or my future, because all is well when God is in control.
10.  I am thankful that I am not a turkey.

And I do not want any cute replies about that last entry (about not being a turkey)..........ha ha.

Happy Thanksgiving to you. Be blessed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Changed Heart

This past Sunday, a young man named Randy came up to me after the service.  He recently moved into the Parolee Sober Living Program (of which I have been associated with for nearly 10 years) of the Coronado Stone manufacturing plant in Fontana.  The men of the program are required to attend our Celebrate Recovery ministry for their addiction problems, and they are required to attend our church on Sundays and Wednesdays.  Randy (now in his late 20s) has been affiliated with white supremacist groups for quite some time in his life, with bold tatoos displaying that fact.  With brokenness, he told me that he was tired of the "hate" in his life.  Everybody seemed afraid of him and he wanted that to change.  He wanted a change in his heart and life!  He did not want to hate anymore!

After we talked for a short while, I asked him where he stood with God for forgiveness and salvation.  He replied (from the questions that I asked) that he had never completely surrendered his life to Jesus, so I asked him if he was ready to do it right then.  He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "Yes."  I asked him to pray out loud, in his own words, to ask the Lord to come into his life to take away the sins and hurt and hate in his life.  Randy did that!  I then prayed to affirm Randy's decision and to ask God to give him strength for the days to come.  After praying, I instructed Randy to tell at least 10 people this week about his decision and his commitment to Christ.  He promised he would.  I then took him to several in the church who were still hanging around, and we shared the joy with them.  What a blessed ending to a wonderful worship time!

Let me recap my week.

Last Wednesday, Sondra and I went to the memorial service for Nancy Hyde, Tamra's mother, who passed away.  Tamra is married to my nephew, Kirk Overstreet.  The service was held at the Set Free Church in Yucaipa.  It was an emotional and uplifting time of sharing by family and friends about a lady who truly loved the Lord and shared it in visible ways.

That afternoon, Sondra and I met Shawn and Crystal (and the two grand daughters) at Oak Glen to have lunch at Apple Annie's with Shawn's parents (Terry and Linda Marcum).  It was a relaxed outing and the weather was so nice -- crisp cool mountain air with some bright sun to warm it up a little bit.  Shawn's parents left to fly back to Tulsa on Thursday.

Thursday afternoon, our church held its annual Thanksgiving Feeding of the Homeless at Fairmount Park in Riverside.  There were over 100 who came out to hear a message, receive special free gifts and then enjoy a bountiful hot Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  I was not able to attend, but I heard the reports and was given photos of the day.  I spent several hours talking to a man who has begun to attend our church, has served in pastoral-type ministries in the past, and now wants to be very involved in our church life and ministry.  What an encouragement to me!

I spent Friday getting many errands done for church and more preparation for Sunday, as is my normal routine.  That night (Friday), however, we took care of little Brynnlee and two-and-a-half year old Bailey both.  Brynnlee is now 2 months old and beginning to smile and laugh.  They were fun, and Sondra gave Brynnlee her first bath at our house in the kitchen sink.  Bailey wanted to help and was very tender as she assisted Grandma G (Sondra).  Sondra does not get much sleep when we have both overnight, but she doesn't complain because of the joy she has taking care of them together.

Sunday was a great day.  We had a gospel quartet group lined up for a concert for the worship hour.  To start the service, our friend Ed Comer (a member of the San Diego church where I pastored almost 20 years ago) shared his testimony of working with the SOWERs (Servants On Wheels Ever Ready) ministry organization.  He and his wife Linda have been traveling and doing volunteer mission work for the past three years.  He also sang a solo, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."

The Golden State Quartet gave a very moving concert, giving personal testimonies of deliverance from previous addictions to drugs and alcohol and subsequent jail time.  Their songs were encouraging and challenging.  As you read earlier in this blog, God moved in the heart of both Randy and others.  It was a very special time of worship indeed.  After the service, Sondra and I took Ed and Linda to lunch at Jose's Mexican Restaurant near the church.

Yesterday (Monday), Shawn and Crystal needed to be at Kaiser Hospital for an appointment, so they brought the grandkids over.  Evan was here, and he always is so good with both Bailey and Brynnlee (even changing diapers!).  Sondra cooked a quick chicken dinner and we all ate together when Shawn and Crystal returned.

Today is Tuesday.  I had a summons to appear at the San Bernardino County Courthouse for possible jury duty.  I called last night and was informed that I did not need to show up at the 8 am time slot, but that I needed to call back today (at 11 am) to confirm if I needed to go in for the 12:30 pm time slot.  I called and was required to show up this afternoon.  After 45 minutes in the jury selection room, a judge came in and dismissed us all.  All the trials had either come to a plea bargain agreement or had a postponement of the trial.  I was free to go!  It was an interesting day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Graduation, Baby Dedication and Friends

What a great weekend we enjoyed!

This past Saturday (November 12), I was invited to speak at a Men's Prayer Breakfast at the La Sierra Baptist Church in Riverside.  Our men were asked to come and join with their men for a good time of food, fellowship and worship.  It was indeed a very enjoyable way to start the day.

Then, that afternoon was the graduation ceremony for the Ontario campus of University of Phoenix, where our son-in-law (Shawn) has worked very hard the last two years to complete his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.  Shawn walked the stage at the Citizens Bank Arena, where the graduation was held.  With the loss of his job and the arrival of a new baby, this was a testimony to his (and Crystal's) dedication to his educational pursuit.  We are all so proud of him.  His parents (Terry and Linda Marcum) flew out from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to be here for this very special weekend.  When Shawn walked the stage on Saturday afternoon, we were ecstatic to see the end of a long journey to this point in his life.

Afterwards, we went for a little celebration dinner at the Buca di Beppo Restaurant in Upland.  It is a quaint but lively Italian place that has wonderful food.  Our table was filled with salads, pizza, lasagna and fettucini.  Our son, Jason, was in the Inland Empire area on business for his job with the Potawatomi tribe.  Because of that, Evan went out to Palm Springs (about an hour away), picked him up and brought him to join us in our celebration time that night.  We had quite a feast with family and loved ones!  (Jason spent Saturday night and Sunday night at Crystal's, so he was with us through Monday morning.)

Sunday was an exceptional day for me and Sondra, because the Baby Dedication for little Brynnlee was part of our morning worship service.  All our kids were here (Jason, Evan and Crystal), as well as Shawn's parents.  My morning message focused on how we honor God as we raise our children.  Children are a gift from above, and we show our love for the Lord in all we do with our offspring.  At the end of the service, I had Shawn and Crystal come forward with Brynnlee and presented them to the church for blessing.  Little Bailey was a part of this, you can be sure!  I also asked Shawn's parents (Terry and Linda Marcum) to come and stand with them.  In addition, I asked Sondra and Jason and Evan to come forward to stand in solidarity and dedication in this unique time of presentation.  After a few brief words, I held Brynnlee in my arms for a prayer of dedication and blessing.  It was indeed a special moment for all of us.

Following the worship time, we drove over to the Ontario Mills mall.  Crystal had planned a very special surprise luncheon for Shawn.  She contacted his work friends, her work friends, other friends from over the years as well as family members.  She stressed that this was to be a surprise party.  She worked it out perfectly.  She and Shawn arrived at the Market Broiler restaurant and was greeted by nearly 45 people who were gathered in a side room set aside for this celebration.  He could not believe his eyes and was so happy to see so many friends and loved ones!

Monday morning, Sondra and I got up early to spend a little more time with Jason.  He was to be at the Ontario Airport by 10 am, so Evan went with us as we took Jason to breakfast.  We got to chat and catch up on some more news from his household (Shelly and the kids - Jace, Kylee and Macyn).  Then we took him to the airport and saw him off.

Last night (Monday), some friends from our San Diego days were in town (actually in Fontana) to get some work done on their motorhome.  Ed and Linda Comer were members of First Southern Baptist Church of San Diego when I pastored there in the early 1990s.  I did the weddings for their children and we have kept in touch ever since we moved away.  When they retired a few years ago, they sold their house and bought a motorhome coach.  They now travel around the U.S. helping with projects at various ministry camps and churches.  In the last two and a half years, they have worked nearly 24 projects.  Each project is about three weeks long in duration.  They bless others with their volunteer efforts, and they relate how blessed they are by those they serve.  Our time for dinner at the Black Angus restaurant was filled with story after story of what God is doing!  We caught up on their family news as well, and we shared what God has been doing lately in our lives also.  We had a great evening with great friends!

And, yes, I made sure they got a copy of my book Don't Say You Can't.....ha!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day and New Billy Graham Book

Today is Veterans Day.  I vividly recall the notice that I received in early 1971.  It was my draft notice.  The late '60s and early '70s were turbulent years in our society (Vietnam, the anti-war movement and the hippie generation).  I remember getting on the bus in Bakersfield as a 21-year old college dropout for a short ride to the Armed Forces Induction Center in Fresno, California.  On March 18, 1971, I took the oath to join the US Army and was then shipped off to Ft. Ord for training. I took my basic training and then AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) both at Ft. Ord, and was then sent off to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for Airborne and NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) training schools.  It was in December 1971 that Sondra and I were married!  I got orders for Germany and Sondra joined me there for a year in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, at the Army's HQ 8th Infantry Division.  I got my honorable discharge on March 17, 1973, and we traveled all around Europe in an old VW bus (that I painted red, white and blue) before coming back home.

 I am very proud to have served my country in that era.  And I applaud all veterans today for their sacrifices and willingness to give of themselves in military service!

I also applaud all the restaurants who will give me a free meal today.....ha ha.

I just finished reading the new Billy Graham book, Nearing Home.  It was a joy to read at this juncture in my life.  Billy Graham is now 93 years old, and he wrote this book in the past year at 92 years of age!  It is full of wisdom and serious subjects, as well as humor and personal recollections.

I encourage everyone to read this book and to pass it on to others.  It is not a literary classic, nor is it a blockbuster book with grand ideas and powerful statements that are new and unique.  It simply shows a viewpoint that expresses wisdom, grace, joy, thankfulness, humor and poignant personal stories that will bless anyone who reads it.  The myriad of topics covered include purpose and legacy and expectations when one is growing old and facing death.  Dr. Graham goes into depth about what it means to grow old -- emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially.  He talks about grief and loss, retirement, legal issues, influence and lifestyle and responsibilities, family issues, society's view of aging, and heaven.  He gives insight into his experiences with pain and illness and disease and loss.  Most important, he talks about the Bible's view on aging and death.  As we gow old, the question comes:  "How do we see God in all of this?"

This book is for all senior adults, as they will enjoy the perspective of one of their peers who can relate to all the issues of growing old.  This book is for all middle-age adults, ones who are beginning to put their future into perspective and dealing with the issues of aging parents and family members.  This book is for young adults as well, helping them to understand what their parents and grandparents are experiencing in life's golden years.  The book can be purchased for as low as $10.91 on Amazon or Barnes & Nobles (and I do not get a commission for telling you this!).  Please read it and be blessed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

David Made It Safely

I just talked to my brother David with the use of Skype on the internet.  He and Meche are enjoying his first full day there in Tuxtla-Gutierrez in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.  It was good to see them and to know he made it safe and sound "back home."

Two nights ago (Tuesday evening), we went to the Islamorada Restaurant, which is inside the Bass Pro Shop in nearby Rancho Cucamonga.  The restaurant is large with many tables and open seating, but is also has a small private room with one big round table for dining.  The walls of this little room are all filled with poster-size photos and images of Zane Grey, the renowned author of western novels from years ago, in various locales (such as riding, fishing, hunting, etc.).  When we told the hostess that we had a group of nine (seven adults and two children), they gave us that "Zane Grey" room to use for our dinner.  It was cozy and quiet, giving us an atmosphere of privacy and VIP status (even though it was just a side room).  The fish and chips were wonderful and inexpensive!  It was a perfect way for us to have a last dinner with him -- me, Sondra, Evan and his girlfriend Callie, Shawn and Crystal and the girls (Bailey and Brynnlee).

Yesterday morning (Wednesday), we got up and were ready for an early start.  We (David, Sondra and I) left the house close to 7 am and headed towards LAX.  Traffic was indeed heavy during this rush hour, but we were in the diamond lane for commuters and made fairly good time.  We found the Denny's close to the airport and had breakfast.  David was happy they had grits on the menu!  After eating, we drove to the drop-off area for Continental Airlines.  With cars waiting and traffic moving close by, we hugged David and said a quick "good bye" and drove away.  It was a happy time that David was finally getting to go home to Chiapas, but it was a sad time for us as we remembered the fun times and special moments with him as he lived with us for the past year and a half.

This morning, Noel called around 6:30 am and said David had his computer hooked up and ready to talk on Skype.  I went to the computer and we had a great time talking with him and Meche.  He had flown from LAX to Houston, and after a short layover was on another plane bound directly for Tuxtla.  He said he did not have any trouble sleeping last night after a very long day in airports and on planes!  Very exciting and new vistas ahead for David and Meche!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

David's Last Week in USA, Part Two

Last Saturday evening (November 5), we had set up a family get-together for a "Farewell to David" at the nearby Sizzler restaurant here in Rialto.  I had spoken to the restaurant manager a few days earlier, so he set us up in the back room by ourselves.  I think we had 20 present, counting kids and babies!  It was relaxing and fun to have family together.  John and Cathy had driven down from Taft to be here, but John was sick and was not able to be with us at the Sizzler.  Cathy and all her kids (except David), their spouses and her grandkids were part of the celebration and mealtime.  As you can see from the photos below, Roger and Julie were there -- also, Evan and Callie, and Shawn & Crystal and their two girls (Bailey and Brynnlee).  Brynnlee is now six weeks old!

On Sunday, Crystal and Shawn (and the two girls) were at church, and we went over to the Dining Commons (what we would have called the cafeteria in the old days) for lunch after our worship service.  David had called our brother John to see if he was feeling better, as we wanted to see him and spend time together before he (John) and Cathy went back to Taft that afternoon.  John was better and we had a great time at CBU together.

Yesterday was Monday, and I had a meeting last night at the church.  The man who heads up our Homeless Ministry Feeding at Fairmount Park in Riverside felt led to call other homeless ministries in the area to form an informal Homeless Coalition.  This would be something to bring unity, encouragement and sharing of resources to other churches and ministries as we serve the Lord together to meet the needs of those who are neglected, forgotten and abused by our society.   It was a great evening, with 29 people who showed up!  It was a special evening of prayer, devotion to the Word, singing and sharing testimonies of the various ministries represented.

We were blessed indeed.

Monday, November 7, 2011

David's Last Week in USA, Part One

Our brother David is leaving this Wednesday, November 9, to fly down to Chiapas, Mexico, to live.  Meche is very excited and we are happy for them both.

So, this past week we have been making some arrangements to see family and have family come together for a last time to say "adios" to David before he leaves.  Last Wednesday, we (David, Sondra and I) went over to nephew David's house (David, Charity and the three kids) in Riverside for lunch.  Our niece Alicia came over and joined us also.  It was fun and lively with the boys!

That night, Sondra and I attended a youth meeting at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland.  Our good friend, Torie Anderson, was helping to coordinate a team from China as several shared testimonies.  A lady (given the English name "Jolly") was amazing as she shared her life story and danced for us.  She was one of the many trapped beneath the rubble in the China earthquake several years ago.  Both of her legs were amputated, so she now wears prostheses to walk and still dance!  Her love for the Lord was infectious.

Several of the team (including Torie) with Sondra.

Jolly dancing and showing her agility with prosthetic legs!

Mandy (translator), Jolly, Sondra and Galen.

On Thursday morning, we (again David, Sondra and I together) went over to nephew Kirk's house in Riverside.  Kirk and Tamra are very proud parents of little Ezekiel Zion Overstreet.  The baby has gone through so much already but is looking so strong and healthy now.  We all have seen the power of prayer and the joy of trusting God through those early days of premature birth and the complications that were life-threatening.  We had a wonderful visit with Kirk and Tamra, and seeing the little one look so precious.

Friday, David and I went over to the local Social Security office to get some things done.  We also went to the VA hospital in Loma Linda to request copies of our medical records for issues we need to follow up on.

In my next blog, I will show several pictures of our Saturday and Sunday times as we had some more family get-togethers.