Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Early Spring Cleaning

We are trying to get rid of items that have been stored for several years in a storage site, and that will also help us cut costs at the same time.  I have way too many books and too many items from past mission trips and vacations.  It is painful for me to give these up, but the time has come to do so.

Sondra and I have been at the storage unit several days last week and two days this week so far.  I have found some of my writings from college days, as well as other writings from the years of pastoring.  Also, we have found many photos of years past.  It is interesting to see the stages of life through pictures, both black & white and color.  That says how old I am.....ha ha.

Both Shawn and Evan have helped on different days, and we have sure made good use of Shawn's pickup truck.  We are trying to get everything finished this afternoon, so we don't have to pay another month's rent on the storage unit.  So, everything these past six days has revolved around rummaging through personal stuff and throwing out needless stuff and giving away good stuff.

Sunday was a very good day of fellowship and worship.  We took part of the morning worship time for testimonies and praise reports.  It was Day of Prayer for the Southern Baptist Convention, so my message focused on Stephen in the book of Acts and his prayer before being killed by an angry mob.  Stephen was martyred by those who felt his faith and belief was heresy, as Stephen proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah.

As he was being stoned to death, Stephen's prayer was for those who were killing them.  He asked God to forgive their sins and to "lay not this sin to their charge."  Through this powerful act of grace in prayer, the seed was being planted for a young man named Saul to come to faith.  Saul, on a journey not too much later on the road to Damascus, would be faced with the challenge to believe and obey the call of Jesus.  The prayer of Stephen had great effect ultimately.

We, as Christians, need to have that kind of faith.  That kind of prayer life comes from a Spirit-filled lifestyle.  Stephen, in several verses, was said to be "full of the Holy Spirit."  When we are full, there is room for nothing else.  When we are full of God's Spirit, there is room for nothing else to crowd in and distract or deceive us.  We are to be focused and full of what the Lord has for us!

Sondra attended a Bridal Shower for Gail Anderson, who is engaged to Jack Shelton, in our church.  They had a great time, from all reports.

After eating at The Hat, a wonderful place for pastrami and potato salad and french fries, Alden and I went home and watched sports most of the day -- golf, Pro Bowl football game, Lakers, Clippers and all.

So, yesterday and today we have been back to the grind of sorting through memories and trash.....ha ha.  I will sure be glad when this is done!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Feeling Much Better

The flu bug hits and just kind of hangs around.  For the last two weeks, I have not felt up to par.  Some days I would feel OK, but most days I was very tired and weak.  Last Wednesday evening, I had the Bible study all ready but did not feel like I should be pushing it.  So, I took the lesson over to the church and handed it to a man who fills in for me from time to time.  He was so gracious and told me to go home and get back in bed!  I am finally feeling like I have my energy back and no flu symptoms.  It's amazing how health issues can cramp your lifestyle!

Last Monday I used some Christmas money to buy me a Dockers wallet, Dockers belt and a shirt.  It is interesting how new clothes can actually make one feel better!  On Tuesday, Pastor George came over (as is his usual custom) to spend the night.  He leads our Celebrate Recovery ministry meeting for the parolees that night each week.  Afterwards, he comes over for dinner and we have a time to catch up on what is going on in his church start work in the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles.  Last Tuesday, two of the men from the Sober Living Home came with George, and we had a lively dinner together.

Thursday, Sondra kept grand-daughter Bailey for the afternoon, just to spend quality time with her alone.  When little Brynnlee is with us, Bailey naturally does not get full attention and play time with Grandma or me (Papa G).

Last Saturday morning, I attended a Men's Prayer Breakfast with several of the men in our church.  We went over to the La Sierra Baptist Church, where Pastor Mike Yeamans serves.  Mike was our Worship Leader and Associate Pastor at Vision Plus for the first seven years of our church start, beginning in January 2001.

It rained most of Saturday, and I enjoy the wetness, the freshness and the clean air the storms bring each time.  Sondra also enjoys making a fire in the fireplace when it gets quite chilly.

Yesterday, church was exciting and different.  I had set up a time during the worship service to do a Skype (internet) interview with my niece Jennifer (daughter of my brother Roger) who is working in South Asia after graduating from California Baptist University.  We are careful about how much information we share about her work as it impacts her ability to stay and work in that country (which we are careful not to disclose).

Anyway, we had a computer set up in the sanctuary and did a live interview with Jennifer.  It was a wonderful time in which she was able to share with our congregation what is going on in her life.  It was informative, interesting and lively.

Following that, I had lined up a guest preacher for the worship hour as well.  Pastor Joe Lick, a church planter in the Riverside area, came and brought the morning message.  He has worked with college campus students, as well as being deeply involved in the homeless ministry at Fairmount Park.  His message focused on the meeting of Jesus and Zaccheus.  Zaccheus was short and needed to climb a tree, just to see Jesus.  Zaccheus did not let a physical hindrance stop him from seeing Jesus.  Pastor Joe reminded us in his sermon, that there are countless barriers that will hinder us from "seeing Jesus."  We must be strong and determined, just like Zaccheus, to overcome all obstacles and barriers that keep us from taking time to be with Jesus and serving him as our Lord and Savior.

After the invitation at the close of the service, we took time to bring a lady named Christina forward.  She is facing cancer surgery tomorrow (Tuesday).  About 20 people gathered around her at the altar area to lay hands and pray for God's healing power to be seen in these circumstances.  It was a very moving time.

After church, two men came to me and talked to me about baptism.  Both of these men are in the Sober Living Program and have spent time in prison in the past.  It was a great way to end the day at church.

Yesterday afternoon was spent with Alden, Shawn and the two girls (Bailey and Brynnlee).  We all watched the football playoff games (Baltimore Ravens vs New England Patriots, and San Francisco 49ers vs New York Giants).  I was rooting for Baltimore and San Francisco both to win to meet in the Super Bowl in two weeks.  I must have been a jinx, as the Patriots and the Giants won!  Anyway, it was fun with all the distractions of two little girls.

Oh, one last thing.  A couple of weeks ago, Sondra and I went down to Hollywood with some friends (Lorn and Sharon Harrison).  Sondra and Sharon needed to buy some tickets for a play, and it is much cheaper at the box office than on-line with all the fees.  So, we went down on Tuesday, January 3.  We also did some sightseeing on Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard -- Kodak Theater, Pantages Theater, Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Hollywood stars on the sidewalk.  We left early that mornng because we wanted to get back early as well. 

But, before heading home we stopped for lunch at a famous Chicken 'n' Waffles restaurant there in Hollywood.  I had never had fried chicken and waffles together, so I had to try it!  Amazingly good, I must say.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Feeling Better But Not 100% Yet

I never left the house for almost four days (Saturday evening through Wednesday afternoon) last week, due to the flu bug.  I was not extremely ill.  I was just weak and tired and chilled and feverish, off and on.  I know I am not feeling good when my appetite goes away.....ha ha!  Anyway, I was feeling better by Wednesday morning, so I pushed it to get ready for church prayer meeting that night.  I led a Bible study on Proverbs 3, in which Solomon gives 10 Principles of Life:

1.  Let love and faithfulness always abound in your life.
2.  Trust in the Lord completely and totally.
3.  Do not depend on your own wisdom for right living.
4.  Honor God with all your income and possessions.
5.  Accept God's discipline with understanding and humility.
6.  Find wisdom by seeking God alone.
7.  Do not fear anything here on earth.
8.  Give to others without reservation or manipulation.
9.  Do not plot or scheme to hurt others.
10. Do not imitate the violence of others.

Live according to God's ways, and you have the promise of longevity, prosperity and peace.  God curses the proud, while He blesses the humble.  God gives shame to the foolish, while He gives honor to the wise.  The wicked are cursed, while the righteous are blessed.

On Thursday morning, I was scheduled to lead the daily devotion time at the Coronado Stone Products manufacturing plant in Fontana.  So I got up early and spoke on the call of Joshua and his victory over the enemies of Israel.  I ended with a challenge for us all to be "champions" for the Lord in fighting the spiritual battles we face.

Having been "cooped up" for several days, I wanted to get out and do something.  So, that Thursday afternoon, Sondra and I went to see "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" at the local theater.  It had an intriguing plot, but the movie was slow and boring.  I felt like I wasted my money.  Anyway, it was good to get out, go to the Market Broiler for dinner and see a movie.

On Friday, I had a meeting with the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of Coronado Stone, Brian Coulter, and the head of Men's Ministries and Disaster Relief for the California Southern Baptist Convention, Don Hargis.  We met to discuss the partnership efforts that can be done in the future in disaster relief efforts in the U.S.  Coronado has a network of construction and building companies to help bring building supplies to areas hit hard by tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and such.  This is a plan that is developing and is exciting.

I have known Don Hargis since the Landers earthquake in 1991, because our church in 29 Palms was just about 20 miles away and our community suffered some damage as well.  We mobilized our church to assist Don and his Disaster Relief Team (from the Fresno office of the convention) in the feeding of both earthquake victims and the local disaster relief and Red Cross workers.  I saw first-hand how ministry to hurting people can really make a difference.

From Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, we took care of Bailey and Brynnlee.  Keeping them overnight is always special and eventful.  Feeding, entertaining, changing diapers, bathing, watching cartoons and everything else is great fun.  Sondra sleeps close to Brynnlee's bassinet and, naturally, Bailey is close by.  So, through the night, Sondra is up and down with one or the other.  The lack of sleep is offset by the enjoyment of taking care of them.  On Saturday, Sondra offered to take Bailey to see the new Chipmunk movie, while Brynnlee went home with mommy and daddy (Crystal and Shawn).  I stayed home to get ready for Sunday.

At church on Sunday morning, we took communion in the worship service.  Having the Lord's Supper is always a high time of reflection and praise.  The time taken to remember that Jesus died for our sins is very humbling and very moving.  My morning message was taken from Mark 14, where Jesus sat down with his disciples for the Last Supper, the meal of the feast of the Passover.  I did a brief recall of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, where the last plague was the death of every first born in the land.  The sacrifice of a lamb, with the blood sprinkled on the door posts and lintel, would spare the death of the first born in every Israelite's household as the death angel would "pass over" them.  In that same sense, the death angel "passes over" us as we trust and obey the Father in heaven for eternity's sake.

In preparation of our hearts for taking the Lord's Supper, I reminded us as a congregation that we need to "come to the table" with:

1.  Clean hands (a clean life through forgiveness, restoration and response to Jesus).
2.  Good appetite (ready to eat from God's goodness, not the "junk food" of sin).
3.  Attitude of fellowship (ready to savor the time of togetherness with God's people).
4.  Harmony (a unity that discourages and dismisses conflict or divisiveness).
5.  Thankful heart (gratefulnees for salvation, not taking it for granted).
6.  Faithfulness (loyalty and trust in Jesus, with undivided commitment to him).

During the invitation, many came forward to express their love and commitment to the Lord.  The taking of the elements (unleavened bread and fruit of the vine) was a very special time.

After church, a man in the church (Michael Geiger) asked if I (with Sondra and Alden) would like to go to the Cal Baptist brunch with him and his new roommate (Juan Carlos  Cuevas).  I didn't hesitate.  So, our music minister (Dan) and his fiance (Pam) joined us for a great time of fellowship and lunch.  It was the first time at the buffet for Juan, Dan and Pam.  It is a fun way to spend your time at lunch on a Sunday afternoon.

It was raining a little as the afternoon progressed.  We need the rain, so I was not complaining.  The rest of the day was filled with naps, football and the Golden Globe awards show.

Today (Monday) is the Martin Luther King holiday.  I will probably be lazy and relax most of the day, since it is still sprinkling a little.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Not Feeling Well This Weekend

This will be a short blog.  I have not been feeling too well all weekend long, alternating between fever and chills and all.  I called a man in the church to preach, so everything was covered as far as church was concerned.  I really miss being at church with the congregation when I am away or ill.  Everything went well in the worship hour, according to all the ones I spoke to.

I just received a good word about my brother Noel.  He had his pacemaker replaced today at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital.  About 12:30 pm (Central Time) the doctor put the new pacemaker in.  He told Janice that all went well.  Noel will rest a while and then go home to his apartment in Shawnee.  We are very hopeful that this new pacemaker will help alleviate many of the heart-pounding problems he has been having in the past.

Last week we saw the latest Mission Impossible movie.  I think I liked it better that any of the others made to date.  Other than some other errands here and there, we did not do too much lately, being tired and sick.  The only other thing of note is the creation and ordering of a new church calendar for 2012, through the photo department of WalGreen's online.  Many of our church people enjoy having a calendar that shows the events from last year, and they put it in prominent places for others to see as a way to promote our church!

That's it for now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

It is hard to believe that 2011 has come and gone.  We are now experiencing the beginning of a brand new year -- 2012!

Last week, we went to the hospital to see a young lady named Courtney, a long-time friend of our daughter Crystal.  Courtney was Crystal's roommate when they had an apartment together in San Bernardino some years ago.  Courtney was in Crystal's wedding and has become a friend of our family.  Both Crystal and Courtney work for Kaiser Hospital.  Courtney had a severe stroke three weeks ago, at the young age of 32.  They had to remove part of her skull to release cranial pressure.  She is also scheduled now to have open heart surgery in the next day or so, as they found a benign tumor mass surrounding her heart.  She is married and has a son (almost three years old).  She is beginning to make movements and speak a few words.  We are thankful to see healing begin already.

It just reminds us that we never know what tomorrow holds!

Last week, we took care of the grandkids (Bailey and Brynnlee) a couple of times.  That is always a special time, as Bailey is growing up so quickly (two and a half years old) and Brynnlee is three months old and starting to get personality.  Last Thursday we had them overnight as Shawn took Crystal to see the play "Wicked" at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

We went to a couple of movies:  "War Horse" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."  Both were interesting in their own way.

Saturday was New Year's Eve.  We went to dinner with our friends, Lorn and Sharon Harrison, at the PF Chang's restaurant nearby.  Because the next day was Sunday and church, I was in bed by 10:30 pm and did not stay up to watch the New Year come in!  Yes, I am getting old and it's OK!

On New Year's Day, we had church at the regular time.  Attendance was down somewhat, but we had a great service.  There were two baptisms and a wonderful spirit of worship.  I preached on making a new beginning and a fresh start for the year 2012.  Instead of making New Year's Resolutions, I asked everyone to make a "Bucket List" for 2012.  After church, we had lunch at Appleby's with friends Ken and Beifei Edwards and Sondra's brother Alden.  It was relaxing and a fine way to enjoy New Year's Day afternoon.

What do we want to accomplish in this year 2012 only?  Here is the Bucket List 2012 that I suggested at church for us all to consider.  I printed it on an insert for the worship service bulletin, and asked them to mark their choices and place the sheets on the altar at the end of the service.  Here is the list:


   ___  Read the Bible completely through, cover to cover.
   ___  Pray deeply and daily for 15 minutes.
   ___  Attend worship service at least 45 Sundays (out of 52).
   ___  Write out my personal testimony of salvation.
   ___  Give a tithe (10%) of my income to my church.
   ___  Share my story of salvation with 5 people this year.


   ___  Spend more time with family and close friends.
   ___  Guard my talk, by not using profanity or gossip.
   ___  Say encouraging words to those around me daily.
   ___  Be more tolerant with those who disagree with me.
   ___  Invite 10 people to church with me this year.
   ___  Refuse to hold grudges or to remember past hurts.


   ___  Get healthier by losing ____ pounds this year.
   ___  Exercise 4 times a week.
   ___  Maintain a routine for sleep and rest.
   ___  Keep my mind sharp through constant reading.
   ___  See the doctor regularly for checkups.
   ___  Take my medications properly.

   ___  Maintain and share an attitude of thanks each day.
   ___  Be extremely careful with my temper and anger.
   ___  Be pure in sexual matters, in thoughts, reading and activities.
   ___  Quit whining.
   ___  Quit making excuses, for myself and others.
   ___  Quit being negative and pessimistic.
   ___  Be very careful with my spending habits.

Happy New Year 2012!