Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some Kind of Week

It is Sunday evening, March 25, and I am looking back over the last seven days on my calendar.

Last Monday, I did not do much.  Sundays are very draining physically and emotionally, preaching in the worship hour and spending time with the congregation.  It is a "good" kind of tired!  So, on most Mondays, I rest and get my energy level back up to par.

Last Tuesday, I had an doctor's appointment.  It was set up by the Social Security Administration to verify my health issues, some of which may qualify me for disability payment.  Most of you know that I have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, as well as edema (swelling of the feet) and sleep apnea.  I was sent to an "outside" doctor (one who is not part of my medical team -- personal physician at the Veterans Hospital and other specialists there) for a consult and exam.  I will find out their results in the weeks to come.

Sondra had also planned a trip to Knott's Berry Farm on Tuesday, a birthday gift to Bailey for her upcoming third birthday on April 4th.  We drove down to Buena Park (Anaheim area) with Shawn, Crystal and the two little girls (Bailey and Brynnlee, who is now 6 months old).  It was a gorgeous day, weatherwise.  It was a great day also because there were not as many guests that day.  We all had a wonderful time, especially Bailey, as we spent almost the entire afternoon at the Camp Snoopy area for little kids!

You will notice that I am not in the photos -- I had the camera and we didn't take a picture of me!

As we left the park, Sondra noticed a missed phone call from a cousin (Janet Johnson) in Taft.  Janet's dad (Lester Russell) had just passed away that morning.  Uncle Lester (as we know him, naturally) was so much fun to be around.  Sondra grew up close to her cousins and her Uncle Lester and Aunt Audrey.  Audrey was Sondra's mom's sister (Ima's sister).  We had always spent as much time as we could with these close relatives.

Lester was one who enjoyed playing games with kids and adults.  He was a man who had spiritual depth, serving in every church he was a member of.  He even came down to 29 Palms and helped us build a small sanctuary for our Wonder Valley mission church.  He was 87 years old and will be dearly missed.

We left early Wednesday morning and stayed through Friday evening in Taft.  Alden (Sondra's brother who lives here in Rialto) rode with us and stayed with Alice (their sister who lives in Bakersfield).  Sondra was asked to stay with her two cousins in Taft -- one night with Janet and the other night with Connie.  It was a special time of closeness and sharing during those days and evenings.  As we talked to Janet one day, she was talking of selling her dad's Chevy van to help defray the funeral expenses.  The price she wanted was exactly the price we had previously determined that we wanted to spend for a used vehicle for me.

Since Taft is small, we went right then to the DMV, got the necessary documents completed, paid the upcoming registration and got the smog done.  All in a couple of hours!  It was amazing and they (Janet and Connie) were so happy that we needed it and bought it!  The van is a 1999 Chevrolet Venture van with only 58,333 miles on it.

Friday was the funeral.  I also got to spend some time with my brother John, as he lives just a few spaces down from Lester and Audrey in the mobile home park in town.  I picked up John, and he rode with me to the funeral and graveside service.  John knew Lester and Audrey, as they sometimes attended John's church on Sunday nights.

The funeral was a special time of celebration.  Janet's son, Richard, is serving in ministry at a church in Taft and led the service.  Janet's other son, Jeff, is a member of a singing group called Solid Ground.  Jeff's group came down from Sacramento at the request of the family to sing at the memorial service.  The whole service was emotionally moving and gave peace to the family.  All of Sondra's brothers and sisters were able to attend -- Alden, Sharon, Alice and Danny.

After the funeral, we all met at Danny and Marci's house in Bakersfield for a short time together.  Sondra, me and Alden left Bakersfield around 4:30 pm to go home.  It was a long and exhausting day.  But, again, it was a good day with family and loved ones.

                                                    Alden, Sondra, Sharon, Alice and Danny (all in birth order)

Yesterday (Saturday) was preparation day for Sunday -- worship service and a wedding!  We went over to the church to set up tables and chairs in the sanctuary because of predicted rain today (Sunday).  After setup, Sondra and I took the wedding couple to dinnere at Chevy's Mexican Restaurant close by.  Jack Shelton and Gail Anderson are very special people and we were excited for today's exchange of vows.

Our previous Praise & Worship Leader (now serving in another church), Pastor Mike Yeamans, came for the entire service and led our singing.  I preached on the book of Ruth, as it is a magnificent love story.  This led into the wedding ceremony that immediately followed worship.

The entire worship hour and wedding were broadcast live on the internet, as the couple had adult children living out of state.  The day's broadcast is now on the web and can be accessed for viewing as an "archived" download.  You can watch it (be warned that it is grainy and not very good audio) at  and click on GailJackWedding.  I think my sermon is at the 1 hour 34 minute mark of the video.....ha ha!

Hope your week was eventful and satisfying!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The rains have come and dumped a lot of water, but we needed it.  We are about 6 inches below annual rainfall for the year.  But, I don't like it when it comes down in buckets!  Oh, well.

Last week, I just wanted to get out of the house.  I had felt so cooped up, as I didn't get outside when I was sick and not feeling well.  So, we went to several movies.  On Monday we saw two movies, back to back, in the early afternoon matinee time period.  First we saw "Safe House" with Denzel Washington, and we thoroughly enjoyed the action and suspense.  Well, because of time, Sondra said, "Let's see 'Act of Valor' while we are here."  We then walked in the next theater door and watched "Act of Valor," a movie about the mission and exploits of our Navy Seals.  It was action-packed, but the movie was not as well-crafted as "Safe House."  We still enjoyed it, however.

Because we "sneaked" in to the second movie, immediately after the film I walked over to the manager's desk at the front of the theater to pay.  I told the young lady that my wife had wanted to see the second movie, but because the movie was just getting ready to start we went in without paying first.  I said, "I want to come and pay for that second movie now."  She responded, "Well, that is so very nice and honest of you.  Not many people do that."  She went over to the cash register, getting ready to ring up the sale, and I followed her.  Then, she stopped, looked at me and said, "You know what?  I appreciate your honesty and I am not going to charge you.  Have a great day!"  That was so nice of her, and I thanked her profusely.  Honesty does pay!

I had a birthday coupon for Famous Dave's BBQ that I had not used yet.  So, we ate and went home.  It was a fun outing.

The next day (Tuesday), Sharon and Lorn Harrison (our longtime friends here in Rialto) wanted to go to the movies, and we went with them.  We watched "The Descendants" with George Clooney.  It is a movie about life and death and relationships.  It was very thought-provoking and well-done.  Sharon and Lorn then took us out to dinner, to Lucille's BBQ.  I love barbecue, so I didn't mind at all.  They said they were "treating" because of our recent birthdays!

On Wednesday, we took little Bailey to a place called "Pretend City" down in Irvine (Orange County).  It is a fun place for kids up to ten years old.  It has everything in miniature -- bank, doctor's office, grocery store, farm, gas station, etc.  Bailey had a wonderful time, and we loved watching her play and enjoy the experience.

Sondra made homemade chocolate chip cookies that evening, and Crystal and Shawn enjoyed them with us!

Thursday morning, I spoke at the 8 am devotional time at the Coronado Stone manufacturing plant in nearby Fontana.  The topic I was given was "The Many Trials of Jesus."  As we approach the Easter season, different speakers are given the topics that lead up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

On Friday I had several meetings at Coronado to discuss the Sober Living Program for parolees that I am involved with there.  One of our guys, a man named Dave, had just been released from jail after getting busted for a minor drug charge while driving a Coronado vehicle.  I argued to bring him back into the program and give him another chance.  He has been working for Coronado for some time and has proven himself valuable in the workplace.

Yesterday, Sunday, this man Dave came up to me after the worship service and said, "Pastor, I want to get baptized today."  I told him that I needed to sit down and talk to him about commitment and the meaning of baptism.  He said, "I know about that.  I want to get baptized in a stream!"  We agreed to talk today after he gets off work!  What a joy!

After church, we went out to lunch at Sundowner's Restaurant with our Praise and Worship leader Dan and his fiance Pam.  He and Pam are planning their wedding soon, and we talked at length about that.  It was a great day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Birthday Week

It was bound to happen!  Everyone had been sick -- my wife, my grand-daughters, folks at church.  So, yes, I finally caught whatever it was that was going around.  Last Monday I began to sneeze, cough and have a runny nose.  All that with a slight fever as well.  I was hoping it would go away quickly, so I could feel better by my birthday (last Wednesday, March 7).

Well, it didn't happen!  I was tired, sick and dragging all week.  But I tried to get several things accomplished anyway.

Last Monday, I had an appointment here at the house with Torie Anderson, a friend from my early college days.  She and her husband have been close friends for over 44 years.  Torie helped Sondra get her first teaching job here in Rialto in 1997 as well.  Torie is retired and has been working with an organization that helps train teachers in China, specifically in the region that was ravaged by a huge earthquake a couple of years ago.  She goes with the hope that her faith in Christ will shine forth and be a witness to those who are living in sadness and hopelessness.

Torie came over last Monday to have me help her rework her written presentation and PowerPoint presentation.  She has been asked to lead teacher-training seminars in several places this year in China.  In April, she is to lead a seminar that will have materials (that she is developing) that will be used to train teachers in all of China!  There is so much to tell, but there is not enough time or space to go into all the details.  Torie just wants to be used by God in this opportunity.  I was humbled to be asked to assist in putting it together.  I worked with Torie on Monday and Thursday on these materials.  I spent much of Saturday putting it together and sending it to her by email.

Tuesday I stayed in and was more miserable with the cold/flu symptoms.

Wednesday was my birthday, and I didn't feel much better.  The only time I went outside was to have dinner at Dickey's BBQ with Evan/Callie and Shawn/Crystal/Bailey/Brynnlee.  Evan and Callie gave me cards and gifts after dinner.  It was fun, but I didn't feel up to par.

I felt so blessed throughout the day, though.  I got phone calls from Jason and his family.  I got to have some Skype calls on separate occasions with Noel, Marti and Mom in Shawnee.  I had a fun talk on Skype with David and Meche in Chiapas.  On Facebook and in emails, I received a ton of birthday wishes.  I was amazed at the Facebook entries and notes from friends -- from old friends, from new friends, from 29 Palms, from San Diego, from Rialto, from Riverside, and on and on.  I tried to keep count, and I came up with over 75 messages.  It was rather exciting.

On Thursday, I did not venture out of the house until that evening again.  Evan and Callie took me (with Sondra, of course) to the local Philly's Best sandwich shop in Ontario.  I do love Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches and it was a good choice.  Afterwards, we went over to Callie's house in Corona to show Evan (and Callie) the DVD that I just had made of our kids when they were young (Evan was 2 years old in the little home movie).

Friday came and went, and I was beginning to feel better.  The only thing I did that day was go to dinner with Shawn and Crystal and the grand-daughters to the nearby Outback restaurant.  They gave me cards and gifts that night.

On Saturday morning, I woke up from a good night's sleep, but by 9 am I was feeling just worn out with no energy.  I called a man I had met a couple of weeks earlier at the Evangelism Conference and asked him to come and preach Sunday (yesterday).  I did not know how I was going to feel, and I had not done as much as I usually do for sermon preparation during the week.

Sunday was eventful.  The man I had asked to come and preach has a nickname, "Hitchhiker."  His name is James McCollogh, a former Marine and retired government worker who felt a "calling" to be a hitchhiker for the Lord since 1978 when he was saved.  He has hitchhiked all across the U.S. many times to arrive at appointed destinations.  He has hitchhiked in Iraq, Haiti and many other foreign countries.  He loves the Lord and uses every opportunity to share the gospel with those who pick him up.

Well, here's why yesterday was so eventful.  He was hitchhiking to our church in Riverside from the east L.A. county area, about 30 miles away.  I called him at 9 am (our church starts at 10 am) to remind him that he was free to call me to pick him up when he was close.  Well, he called at 9:55 and said he needed a ride.  I told my assistant pastor and Praise & Worship leader to take over the service until I returned!  I picked up the "Hitchhiker" preacher, brought him to the church, arriving around 10:55 am (almost an hour into the worship time).  The assistant pastor was leading a Praise & Testimony Time ("happy dollar" praises in the offering plate), and I came up to the platform area.

After a brief introduction, "Hitchhiker" preached and we were blessed by his message and testimony.  In over 37 years of hitchhiking to churches and preaching engagements, he had NEVER had trouble getting to his assigned place.  He told me I was his first church that this happened to, so the Devil was working overtime to keep him from being with us!  I told him this was the first time I had EVER left a church service to go pick up the preacher!  We laughed after it was all over, but I sure didn't know what to think when I was on the freeway going back and forth during my worship hour!

All in all, it is a treasured memory for what God does in spite of our plans!  It ended up being a truly blessed day at church.

After lunch, we went home and relaxed.  At the end of the day, Sondra made me a German chocolate cake for my birthday (late) at my request.  It sounded good and I enjoy it so much.

She did it, we ate it, we got full!  A perfect end to a great day and a wonderful week (in spite of being sick).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fun Watching Old Home Movies

When we cleaned out a storage unit some weeks ago, I came across my box of old home movies that I made with a Super 8mm camera (with sound) I had back in the early 1970s.  This was before VHS movie cameras, and way before digital cameras!

Anyway, I put 10 small reels in a packet at our local Costco store to be made into a DVD.  It is some footage that dates from 1979 to 1981.  It shows Crystal as a baby in the hospital, Evan's second birthday and Jason's fifth birthday, with a lot of other Christmas get-togethers and adventures at the park in between.  It was so much fun to watch and experience the memories in vivid movie detail.  We sat with Crystal and Shawn to watch together the other night.  We are trying to figure out a time to have Evan and Callie together to watch now.

I have a lot more reels to convert but it is a little expensive, so it will take some time for the other movies to be made into DVDs.

Evan and Jason got their picture in the latest How-Ni-Kan newsletter, our monthly tribal publication.  The Potawatomis held a regional meeting in Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs area) late last year and Evan went to pick up Jason to bring him here for a couple of days.  Shawn's college graduation was the same day as the Potawatomi event, so naturally we were at the graduation ceremony.

Jason just posted a photo they had made of the family, so here it is.

Crystal and Shawn just moved into their Fontana house several weeks ago.  It has more room, so Bailey and Brynnlee have their own bedrooms now.  They also got a new Toyota pickup truck (well, a used truck that is new to them).

I got a picture from Noel yesterday that showed Mom receiving a certificate from her pastor.  The certificate is in recognition of her 75 years of teaching Sunday School.  Mom just recently resigned from being lead teacher in her Sunday School class to where she will now be the substitute/assistant teacher for the class.  In yesterday's worship hour, the pastor made this presentation as part of his sermon, walking down to where Mom was sitting to present the certificate during his meesage!  Noel was there and got the picture.

Mom will turn 89 years old this August.  For those of you from Southern Baptist background who know the Sunday School class designations from the old days, Mom taught the Beginner and Primary classes back when she was a young teenager.  She was a youth teacher and adult teacher for many years.  In these later years, she has been teaching the Adult Women Senior class at her Tecumseh church.

We are so proud of her.  She was instrumental in the lives of so many people along these years, but especially to us as her children as she taught us in both word and action!

Last Saturday we held a Goodwill Drive to collect items for a fundraiser.  We had two semi-truck trailers that we attempted to fill with good discards from church members, friends and neighbors.  It was a full day of fellowship for a host of people who showed up to help, as well as some assistance for our financial needs as a church.

Yesterday, we were excited to have a Baby Dedication.  A lady who just recently began attending church is moving to Iowa this week, but she wanted her little 5-month old baby body dedicated before they moved.  It is always fun to share in a Baby Dedication during our worship hour.

I preached a sermon on "being a missionary without leaving town." I told the congregation I was a recruiter -- one recruiting missionaries from our midst. I reminded them that a missionary is "one who is on mission, one who has a task to accomplish." We are all called to be missionaries wherever we are, whenever the opportunity arise!
Last night, I had my Praise and Worship leader over to the house with his fiance.  We had a wonderful time of fellowship and prayer about the future.

Lastly, I have taken some time in the past month to do some recreational reading.  I love John Grisham books, so over Christmas I got three new books.  "The Litigators" is a great read.  The other two books are from his new Theodore Boone series, one that has a young teenager getting involved in legal situations as his parents are lawyers.  I read "Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer" and "Theodore Boone, The Abduction."  It was entertaining to read these books.