Monday, April 30, 2012

Today is Crystal's Birthday

Crystal was born 33 years ago today!  I was in my first semester as a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, CA.  I distinctly remember that I had a major paper due in one of my classes on the day that Crystal was born, and I was nowhere near completing it.  I got a reprieve from turning it in, due to Crystal's birth!

Jason was 4 1/2 years old and Evan was 2 at the time.  We were broke with no vehicle.  I had to borrow a car to take Sondra to the hospital when her labor pains began to be closer together.  It was exciting because we did not know if this baby was going to be a boy or girl.  Yes, I was hoping for a girl but was too afraid to hope too much.

It was also the first baby I got to see in the birth room.  Fathers were not allowed in the delivery room during birth when Jason was born because of a lawsuit against Kaiser that year.  When Evan was born, the nurses could not get to me soon enough to come to the delivery room, as he came so quickly.  So, Crystal was the first one in which I was actually in the room during the birth.  Special memories indeed.

Here is a picture of Crystal and Shawn and the two little ones (Bailey age 3 and Brynnlee age 7 months).  This photo was taken on Bailey's birthday about four weeks ago.

The joy of today is tempered by the sadness we feel because of the loss of a dear friend.  Velma Anderson passed away last Friday unexpectedly.  Two of my dearest and best friends from college days at California Baptist College (now University) are Bobby and Torie Anderson -- we met in the fall of 1968.  Velma is Bobby's mother.  When I dropped out of college in December of 1969, I went to stay with Bobby's parents (Bob and Velma) in Rialto.  They were special and loving and welcoming and inviting and wonderful.  I lived with them until I got my job on a farm driving a tractor in Mettler (a little spot in the road near Bakersfield, where I met Sondra at church there in Mettler) a few months later.

Soon after, I was drafted and served two years in the Army, getting married and growing up.  Looking for work, I landed a job at Kaiser Steel in Fontana.  With open arms, Bob and Velma allowed me and Sondra to live with them for several months before we bought our first home in Rialto.  So, Velma had become like a "second mom" to me.

The funeral will be sometime this week, and Bobby has asked me to officiate the service.  Torie has just returned yesterday (Sunday) from a mission trip to China, cutting it short as soon as she found out that her mother-in-law passed away.  The arrangements will be finalized today.

I will be attending two other funerals this week.  One for a friend, Larry Tarvin, whose gospel quartet came to sing at our church several times.  The other is for a sister of a friend and worker (Jesse) at Coronado Stone.  The sister died on the operating table during a liver transplant at the UCLA Medical Center a week ago.

In addition, I have been to the Loma Linda University Hospital to visit our good friend, Mr. Kaye Freeman.  He had fluid on the lungs and trouble breathing.  They are keeping him for a few days as they give him the antibiotics and drain the lungs.

On top of that, in my capacity as Director of a men's sober living home connected with Coronado Stone, there was an incident at one of the houses on Friday night in which I needed to be involved in.  It was a late night for me.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed some peach cobbler that Sondra made as Pastor George Nelson (church planter of The Vision Plus Church of Chatsworth) came over last Tuesday evening.  I attended the Celebrate Recovery meeting that night also.

I led the daily devotion time at Coronado Stone last Tuesday morning, and I have been asked to lead the devotion time this coming Thursday for National Day of Prayer.

At church yesterday, a lady came forward for salvation and baptism.  A man (name of Jim) who has been attending lately with his wife in the last couple of weeks is a singer and guitarist.  Knowing he has written his own songs for worship, I asked him spontaneously on Sunday morning to share a song with us.  He blessed us with his singing and love for the Lord.

Finally, I bought a tank of gas for under $4 for the first time in a long time last week.  I paid $3.99 a gallon at Costco.  That's pretty sad when I am happy just for gas to be under $4!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hot and Cold

It was quite hot the other day.  On Friday, we went over to Fairmount Park with the little grandkids (Bailey and Brynnlee) and it was 104 degrees!  We didn't stay long, that's for sure.  I stayed in the shade with Brynnlee (now 7 months), and Sondra took Bailey over to the swings and slides and all.  After feeding a few ducks at the little lake, we got back in and headed  home to be comfortable in air-conditioned surroundings.

And then, today, it is supposed to be in the high 60s and there is already a light drizzle outside.  The ground is wet and it looks quite misty all around.  I like the cool, so I am not complaining at all!

Last week, I sent in some more paperwork for Social Security purposes.  Since I just turned 62, I have filed the necessary claim to start receiving retirement checks (or at least direct deposit funds).  I will get my first check in a couple of weeks.  I am looking forward to that!

Last Saturday, we had a Men's Breakfast for our church and the La Sierra Baptist Church in Riverside.  It is always a good time of fellowship and devotional with about 25 men who love the Lord.  The breakfast was scrambled eggs, sausage and ham, hash browns and biscuits.  I kidded the cooks, by letting them know I have a hard time eating biscuits without gravy!

Several of the men in our church, however, were not at the breakfast as they were on a "day trip" to Tijuana where we are helping a mission church down there.  We go monthly to help with the construction that is being finished.  The church parsonage is a small house which needs complete refurbishing.  A little bit is done each month as we send workers down to get something done and give encouragement to the Mexican pastor and his wife there.

Yesterday, I preached on the whole book of Philemon.  Of course, it is only one chapter long and has 25 verses.  I spoke of the three main characters in the background of the story:  the apostle Paul, a runaway slave convert named Onesimus, and the slave owner Philemon.  Slavery is not condoned at all, but the real issues of this Biblical letter are love, intercession and forgiveness.  It has a powerful message for us today, that's for sure.

After church, we had a wonderful lunch with some friends from San Bernardino who had come over to attend church with us.  We have known these friends, Jim and Sandy Woolard, for about 35 years.  We have kept up with them over the years, and it is so much fun to get back together every so often.  They love the Lord, and Sandy is involved in ministry to kids who attend rave concerts.  She and others go to the parking lot of the rave concerts and pass out gospel bracelets and talk with the young girls as God gives opportunity.  Amazing ministry!

The rest of the afternoon yesterday was filled with helping Greg Freeman, a good friend whose dad owns our house, get things done for replacing the hot water heater.  Last week, the garage floor was getting water leaks from the water heater.  It was almost midnight when Greg left and the water heater was fully installed!

The issue with the water heater was minor, in relation to many other things that happen in life.  Last Wednesday at church, I read from Psalm 73 and talked about "God in the Hardships of Life."  There are many things we face and experience -- health issues, financial problems, family crises, death of loved ones, career struggles, addictions and other damaging pursuits in life.

Asaph, the Psalmist, basically asks the question:  "If God is supposed to bless believers, why do we struggle with problems when the unbelievers around us seem to enjoy prosperity?"  The question shows our misunderstandings.  Our misunderstandings have become our beliefs, and they need to be challenged and corrected.

1.  We have a misunderstanding of God's goodness.  He is righteous and good because of who He is, not what He does.

2.  We have a misunderstanding of what a "blessing" really is.  A blessing is an awareness and knowledge of our worthiness to have favor with the Father in Heaven, and it has nothing to do with material possessions or positions.

3.  We have a misunderstanding that a believer's life is perfect and calm.  The truth is that we as believers will suffer hardships and crises just like anybody else.

4.  We have a misunderstanding of what our expectations should be.  Our expectations should not be focused on events and situations, they are to be focused on God's power and presence as we live daily.

5.  We have a misunderstanding that all non-believers will be punished and will not enjoy prosperity here on earth.  The truth is that we must not equate what happens here on earth with spiritual rewards or punishment!  There will be a day of reckoning, but it may not be here or now!

Well, Sondra is off to her school this morning to help with the end-of-year testing at Garcia Elementary School here in Rialto.  A few more weeks, and she will be done for the school year with her Intervention teaching.  Time flies by quickly!

Here is a some humor for today, somewhere in the land of snow and cold!

Monday, April 16, 2012


Yes, I admit it.  I procrastinated until almost the last minute on my tax returns.  I gather all the tax records in early February and set them away.  Then, when it gets near to the April 15 deadline, I sit down and get them done.  Oh, well.  At least I don't owe the government anything.  Now I have to wait for my refund.  And that's a good thing.

Last week was filled with errands and meetings and phone calls.  That's about the same routine for me.  It seems to take more time these days to get everything's not that I am slowing down, is it?.....ha ha.  And, there are one or two days during the week in which we take time to watch the grandkids around here (Bailey and Brynnlee), which is so fun and entertaining (or is that draining?...ha).

One of the highlights of the week was driving up to Bakersfield to meet with the man who is starting a new church plant (The Vision Plus Church of Bakersfield).  Pastor Michael Dotson, a man with a prison past, is so excited about what God is doing in the midst of his ministry.  I attended the Pastors' Breakfast at the local Marie Callender restaurant early Tuesday morning.......I had to leave Rialto about 5 am to arrive on time for the 8 am breakfast.  I saw Bill and Jean East (former DOM of Kern County when I was growing up), Norm Aycock (pastor friend for years), Jonathan Morgan (son of a pastor in Bakersfield when I was a teenager).  Many more pastors were there that I knew from past years (Sid Peterson, Larry Weatherly and others) that told story after story about my dad and their friendship and love for him!  It was so heartening to be with such good friends.

One of the other highlights last week was a private baptism.  A young man, a high-control parolee in the Sober Living program that I work with, specifically requested to be baptized with no one present.  We talked at length and, because of his desire for this to be a very personal event, I enthusastically told him I would honor his request.  Some have questioned my decision, saying that baptism is only to be done in the church setting.  In seeking guidance in Scripture, I saw where the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by the apostle Philip out in the desert with no one around.  John the Baptist baptized in the River Jordan without the blessing of the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the day (the Pharisees and Sadducees).  I think it is a great joy for others to witness the baptism of believers in the church setting, but it is not imperative nor demanded.

In a similar vein, it is not mandatory for a couple to be married in front of a body of people.  Yes, it brings joy to those who attend a wedding but a couple is no less married for having a ceremony performed in private.  I recall that my dad and mom were married in the small pastor's office in a church in Shawnee, Oklahoma, with no one else present.  That did not invalidate their marriage or make it any less holy!

We must not substitute or impose our traditions and desires on others in their pursuit of living for Jesus!

Anyway, I had the baptistry filled on Thursday morning in the church and did the baptism that evening in the privacy of the young man and his mom and sister.  It was a special time indeed!

On Friday afternoon, Sondra and I were out and about and we decided at the last minute to go to the movies.  The only movie that we were interested in (at that time slot) was Hunger Games.  It was well done and futuristic in content.  Sondra did not care for it too much, because of the plot line that required the killing of others in the name of survival.

On Saturday, Sondra and I helped a lady in our chuch who has no transportation.  This lady named Rosie, whose older brother passed away about 10 days ago, needed a ride to 29 Palms to attend the funeral.  It was a special opportunity for us to share our time and hearts with this dear woman in need.  We left early, drove the 90 miles and talked the whole way about God's plan for life.   I would guess there were about 60 in attendance for the funeral.  It was a good day of feeling the Lord's presence in the midst of sorrow and loss, which may not make sense to some but it is true.

While in 29 Palms, Sondra visited with a lady named Doris Robinson who had just been released from Eisenhower Hospital down in the lower desert.  I was able to visit with Doris, prior to attending the memorial service with Rosie and her nephew.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I finally was able to get on Skype with a friend who is doing independent missionary work in the Philippines.  Pastor Ed McDowell is recovering from dengue fever, having been hospitalized in Butuan City.  Ed and his wife (Yen) talked with me by Skype, but we were a little frustrated because only the audio (and not the video) was working.  Anyway, it was great talking and getting an update on his health and what God is doing there.

Yesterday was a good day at church, which seems to be a common saying with me.  However, it is such joy to be with God's people and to share in a morning of praise and fellowship and hearing the Word of God proclaimed.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blessed Easter Day

My, my, my........what a wonderful day.

Easter Sunday is our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave after his burial and crucifixion.  In the worship hour, I gave the full account of the Passion Week.  I started from Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday.  The full story of the account in the gospel of Matthew reveals the cleansing of the Temple and his teaching through the days leading up to his death, teaching on such things as:  spiritual authority, parables about faithfulness, questions about the Christ being the heir of King David, heaven, government, resurrection, persecution, sacrifice, the Great Commandment on love, hypocrisy, end times and spiritual readiness.

I spoke of:  the conspiracy and plot to kill Jesus by the Jewish hierarchy, the Last Supper (Passover meal) with his disciples, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, the agony of his preparation for execution by his enemies by being beaten, mocked and made fun of by being robed, crowned, spit upon, slapped and stripped.  I talked about the crucifixion on Mount Calvary, with its pain and suffering.

The death of Jesus brought about two main events:  the ripping of the veil in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and the darkness and earthquake in which saints arose from their graves and showed themselves to their families.

The burial was quickly arranged by a man named Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who was a follower and disciple of Jesus, allowing the body to be placed in a tomb that was meant for Joseph himself.  Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night earlier, also helped with the burial.

The empty tomb declared three things:  (1) the death, burial and resurrection were all part of God's redemptive plan, (2) nothing can defeat or hinder God's purpose for his creation, and (3) we as God's people are to celebrate God's love for us by "going and telling" others.

The empty tomb is the full declaration of victory.  It is the pivotal point in the whole story of redemption whereby we, as sinful individuals, find forgiveness and grace through faith to become children of God.  We are part of God's great kingdom, we are heirs of glory through God's love as shown on the cross.  How awesome!

In other news, this past week was full of meetings and getting together with others for seeing what God has in store for the coming weeks and months.  In addition, there were 19 who went on a fun outing last Tuesday to see the taping of "The Price Is Right" show in Hollywood.

There were two special events specifically that were a blessing in these past days.  First, we went over to Crystal and Shawn's house to celebrate Bailey's third birthday on Wednesday, April 4 (her birthday).  What fun.

Second, I did a baptism at Lytle Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest yesterday (Saturday).  A man named David, who is part of the Sober Living Program for parolees for Coronado Stone, asked me if I would baptize him in a running stream or river.  We found a good spot at Lytle Creek (just a few miles north of Rialto), and we held the baptism at noon on a sunny and bright day.

This afternoon, after church, Sondra fixed a huge banquet meal for our Easter dinner:  ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, asparagus, baked sweet potatoes, fruit salad, olives, bake-n-serve rolls and sweet iced tea.  For dessert, we had strawberry short cake with real whipped cream!

Bubba Watson won the Masters golf tournament and the Padres finally beat the Dodgers.  Life is good!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dog Tired

Today is Sunday, April 1.  We did not refer to it as April Fool's Day, as we kept our attention and focus on the fact that it was Palm Sunday!

I preached from the Gospel of Mark, using the passage where Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  After a quick lunch, we headed back to the church for another wedding.  Our Praise & Worship Leader (Dan) and his fiance (Pam) had finalized plans several weeks ago.  It just happened to be Palm Sunday for their wedding.  It was a wonderful time as they exchanged vows and many family and friends were able to come.

This afternoon, I was dragging, with every ounce of energy depleted.  Yesterday, we left about 8:30 am to head over to the coast (Newbury Park, actually, near Thousand Oaks) for a Langdon family reunion.  The five siblings (Alden, Sondra, Sharon, Alice and Danny) were there, with some kids and grandkids to make a grand time.  We all met at Sharon's house for a wonderful time of food and fun.  There were 20 of us all together.

There was Alden - his kids (Timmy and Tammy) are living in Idaho and not able to make the trip.

There was Sondra - with me, Evan and Callie (his girlfriend), Crystal and Shawn and girls (Bailey and Brynnlee).  Jason and his family are back in Oklahoma, not able to come.

There was Sharon - with husband (Michel), son Brendan and daughter Sarah and her fiance Kenny.  Sharon's other kids (Dylan and Danielle) were out of town.

There was Alice - with husband Toby.  Alice's sons (Sean and Matt) were not able to make the trip with their families from Bakersfield.

There was Danny - with wife Marci and their kids (Ryan and Brynn).

We left around 6:30 pm and arrived home a little after 8 pm last night.  Long day, but good times.  I slept like a log.

Last Monday, nephew Steven (Noel's son who is a long-distance truck driver for Schneider) arrived in town for a short layover in Fontana.  I picked up Roger and then we took Steve to Richie's Diner for breakfast.  Steve then came over and rested a short while, getting to see Crystal and her kids.

Later in the afternoon, I picked up a man in the church to help him run errands.  I sent a Western Union money transfer to Pastor Ed McDowell in the Philippines, as he is in distress and was in the hospital with Dengue fever.  Our church was very generous as we raised $350 to help him and his wife.

That night, I also went over to Coronado Stone to spend some time with the guys in the Sober Living Program.  Then, I got a late call Monday night from Rosie, a lady in our church.  Her brother had just had a major stroke and was in the hospital up near 29 Palms, High Desert Hospital in Joshua Tree.  Early Tuesday morning, I picked Rosie up and took her to be at the bedside of her oldest brother, one she was always close to all their years of both childhood and adulthood.  He was sedated, but when we were there he opened his eyes, lifted his arms and make indication he knew she was there.  Sadly, on Friday, he passed away after suffering another stroke.  Rosie, with tears in her eyes today at church, came up to me and thanked me profusely for taking her to see him before he died.  Those are important times as we help others.

Pastor George came and spent the night Tuesday night with us.  He continues to diligently work at the task of starting a church in the Los Angeles area (Chatsworth).  He helps with leading our Celebrate Recovery program with the Sober Living Program on Tuesday evenings.  He leaves on Wednesday morning to head back to L.A.

Wednesday night, my Bible study focused on blind Bartimeus and how Jesus healed him.  Jesus said, "What do you want me to do for you?"  Bartimeus asked for his sight.  Jesus proclaimed his sight to return, and immediately Bartimeus was able to see.  I challenged our people with the question, a very serious question:  "What do you want Jesus to do for you?"

Friday morning was my early appointment (7:30 am) at the VA Hospital nearby.  It was my routine Coumadin checkup for blood thinning results.

I made some phone calls to check on my brother Noel, as he was having the Maze procedure done at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City.  This is an open heart surgery where they take the heart out and deaden some of the inside areas of the heart to help him have a more regular beat.  He has been having severe trouble with Atrial Fibrulation (A-Fib, for short) and resulting heavy pain in the chest daily for many, many months.  The doctor said the surgery went well, and the doctors will monitor him closely to see if it is a complete success by the end of the next three months.  We are all so thankful for God's good blessings and favor in this health issue.

Friday night, I was invited to a meeting by a good friend who has been making many mission trips to China to help teachers over there by leading teacher training.  I was asked to be a coordinator now and to sonsider the position of a Business Manager for a group that has been formed to bring American Christian educators together to reach a group of Chinese teachers with the gospel using the inroads of relationship through training and seminars.  This is a brand new venture, and the group needs wisdom from heaven to pursue this for God's glory.