Monday, May 28, 2012

Evan and Callie are Engaged!

This has been an exciting weekend.  On Friday night, Callie called and announced to us that Evan had proposed and that they are now officially engaged!  It was fun to hear the joy in both their voices as they shared the good news with us.  On Saturday morning, they came over to show us the ring and again they both were beaming and full of happiness.  They went to dinner in the Dos Lagos (Two Lakes) area of Corona.  There is a tunnel by the lakes, and that is where Evan got down on one knee and asked her to marry him.

It is too soon to know about wedding plans, naturally, but it will probably be next Spring or early Summer.  No definite plans, of course.

Today is Memorial Day, and Sondra and I are just relaxing.  Yesterday, we had a special time to recognize the veterans in our congregation.  One of the ladies in the church has a special passion about veterans, as her father served and she now has a daughter serving in Afghanistan.

After church, we barbecued some steaks with Alden here at the house to enjoy them with us.  They tasted so good with sauteed mushrooms, baked potato, fresh corn on the cob, broccoli, salad and a hot berry pie a la mode!  During the afternoon, got to watch part of the Indy 500, some golf tournament on CBS, the Coca-Cola 600 Nascar race and then the Thunder-Spurs basketball game.  We ended the evening watching the season finale of "Harry's Law."  We really love that show too.

Last week we watched the grandkids here a couple of days.  They are so much fun.  Bailey loves to learn at "Grandma G's School," where Sondra gets out her Kindergarten teaching aids and helps Bailey learn to read.  Brynnlee is now crawling and starting to get into things, so we have to be more careful about what is on the floor and on tables where she can pull up!

Sondra and I decided to go see a movie last Tuesday (Senior Adult Day) and saw "The Avengers" for half price.  I am really not into Sci-Fi and the Super Heroes, but I must say this was a very entertaining and fun film to watch.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Pastor George Nelson was with us for the evening and he went with us too.  He loved it.

On Wednesday, the lady in our church who had been admitted to the hospital in Palm Springs had her baby (almost 4 weeks premature) early that morning.  Sondra and I drove out, as the mom (Lacy) was having trouble with bleeding problems.  She and the baby are doing well, the baby weighing in at 4 lbs 10 oz.  He is so cute.

Last Thursday evening, we were blessed to watch one of our church members graduate from Chaffey College in nearby Upland.  This man, David McCollough, a former parolee who is a house manager in our Sober Living program, has worked at Coronado Stone for several years now and has turned his life around.  With prison and drug problems behind him, he has renewed his relationship with his mom and sister as well as completed an Associate's degree while working full-time.  We went and watched him "walk the stage."  We are so proud of him.

Sondra and I drove down to La Jolla in San Diego on Friday, to beat the holiday rush.  We just spent the day reading and looking at the ocean view.  I finished reading my Dick Francis book, Banker.  I am a big fan of any Dick Francis book.  Many years ago, Dick Francis was a top-rated jockey in the U.K. and at times rode for the Queen of England.  In retirement, he wrote fiction mystery novels, where the plots all had some connection with horse racing.  He died a few years ago, and his son Felix now writes in the same style about horses, owners, deceit, murder and such within the racing community.  Dick Francis and John Grisham have been my two favorite fiction novelists over the years.

Naturally, we ate at Taco Fiesta that afternoon and Anthony's Seafood Restaurant that night before driving home.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Baptisms and Spunky Steer

It was a Sunday in which we baptized two young adults, Glenda and Curtis.  Both were so excited and showed some emotion after they were baptized.  It is so refreshing to see the passion and vibrancy in new believers as they find great peace and joy in their new relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some friends from the past (Lorn and Sharon Harrison, Jess and Melody Givens) had come for the worship service.  So, after church, we went to the Spunky Steer restaurant nearby and had a great time of fellowship as we ate lunch.  Alden was with us and enjoyed the time getting to know them better as well.

Later in the day, Sondra and I went out to Sundowners to meet Shawn and Crystal (and the grandkids) and Shawn's parents (Terry and Linda) from Tulsa.  They rode on a motorcycle and are here for a week, before traveling on to Utah and Idaho to visit more family.  Terry (Shawn's dad) just retired from American Airlines and is trying to figure out what he will do with his days now.  We really enjoy being around Shawn's parents, as they are a lot of fun and enjoy life.

Last week, I met with Brian Coulter, the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of the Coronado Stone manufacturing plant in Fontana, to discuss the future plans for the Sober Living program and how we can continue to build it up for the years ahead.  It is exciting to see how we can help the lives of parolees after they are released from incarceration to help them rebuild their lives.

On Tuesday, I led the devotion (the time of "prayer call," as they announce it over the loudspeaker in the plant) and spoke of Jesus' first miracle in Cana of Galilee.  It was when he and his disciples were invited to a wedding feast where the wine supply ran out, and Jesus was asked to do something by his mother.  At Jesus' instruction, the water pots were filled and, by the command of Jesus, the water turned to wine in an instant.  The whole point of the miracle was not the wine but the fact that the disciples believed on him.

On Wednesday, I got a call that one of our young ladies (in her 20s) had been admitted to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs because of complications with her pregnancy.  She lives here in Riverside, but her other children were born there and the doctor knows her condition fully to help treat her.  I asked Pastor Roy (one of the lay pastors in our church) to lead the prayer meeting that night, so Sondra and I could drive to Palm Springs to visit this young lady.  She was so appreciative, and we stayed a couple of hours with her and prayed with her.

Early Thursday morning, I helped a friend (Pastor George Nelson) take his wife to our Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association office, as there was a group of ladies going to the annual Pastor's Wives Retreat at Jenness Park (north of Fresno) in the Sequoia Mountains.

That afternoon, I preached at the weekly Homeless Feeding ministry out at Fairmount Park in Riverside.  It is always a blessing to see those who have physical hunger also have a spiritual hunger.  One man came forward at the time of invitation to receive Jesus into his life.  I also passed out some small gifts to the women there who were mothers, as Mother's Day was just the previous Sunday.  They were so excited and happy.

On Friday, Sondra and I spent some time with Bob and Torie (our friends from college days and since) and brought dinner.  Mexican food sounded good, so we found a little "hole in the wall" restaurant close to their house in Highland and had it "take out" to be easier and more handy for eating.  We had a relaxed time with Bob, Torie and Bob's dad who has severe Alzheimer's disease.  It is heartbreaking, but that is the world we face in these days.  Bob and Torie are so patient and caring, although it is very taxing and tiring.

On Saturday, I went to the monthly Men's Breakfast at the La Sierra Baptist Church in Riverside.  Pastor Mike Yeaman's, who was Associate Pastor with me at The Vision Plus Church for seven years, is the senior pastor there.  We always have a wonderful time of fellowship and eating together, with close to 20 men attending each time.

Our church had a huge Yard Sale that day also.  We had a lady donate the contents of two large storage units to the church.  The contents included mostly items that are sold in a party and crafts store.  Almost everything was packed in the clear storage buckets, so it was easy to set out and display.  We collected over $800 in that sale alone!  We are tyring to raise some funds to fix the roof and paint the church building.

And, last, it was rewarding to know that the local newspaper in Shawnee, Oklahoma, wanted to run a feature article about mom!  My mother, Alice Greenwalt, was interviewed downtown by the Shawnee News-Star last week and they ran the article in yesterday's (Sunday's) edition.  The link is:     and that takes you to the internet site of the paper.

I plan to rest and relax today.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Funeral, Birthday and Mother's Day

The week did not start well last Monday.  We noticed a broken headlamp on our van, with the blinker assembly out as well.  Then, after eating lunch at Panera with Sondra, we came outside and I had a flat tire!  Our AAA coverage comes in handy, that's for sure.  Got the spare on and went to a place for a used tire for the time being.  As an aside, I found a salvage yard in Rialto that can order new parts at cheap prices, so I ordered a headlamp ($75) and the blinker assemby ($20) and had them installed free of charge by one of the men in the Sober Living program that I help.  An auto parts store quoted me a price of $240 for the headlamp alone!  God gave me favor in finding a place with good prices.

On Tuesday night, I went over to Coronado Stone to check on the Sober Living houses and attend the weekly Celebrate Recovery meeting.  While there, I spent some time with a young man named Tim who is so anxious to serve the Lord.  What a blessing indeed!  Pastor George Nelson, coming from Chatsworth, spent the night with us and we had a good time sharing what God is doing.

That day, I received a call from Margaret Wahlen asking me to lead the Graveside Service for her mom (Doris Craig), who had just passed away at the age of 87.  Margaret's parents were members of First Southern Baptist Church of San Diego when I pastored there in the 1990s.  I was also asked to give a few words and give the closing prayer at the memorial service held at Shadow Mountain Church (where Pastor David Jeremiah is pastor).  Dwight Simpson, Director of Missions for San Diego, preached the funeral message.

The interesting thing was that the family had the Graveside Service first, holding it at 11 am Friday.  It was for family only.  The memorial service, held at the church there in El Cajon, began at 3 pm.  That is the reverse of most funeral plans, but Sondra and I both commented to each other that it was quite fitting and right.

I had driven up on Wednesday evening to sit down with the family and discuss what they had in mind for the services.  I was able to meet many of the Craig family during that time and hear so many wonderful stories about a beautiful servant of the Lord.  The Graveside and Memorial services were so filled with song and stories and celebration for a life well-lived.  It was almost like being in church as we shared together in those moments.

After Friday's services, there was a time of fellowship in the pavilion area of the church grounds, and I had the joy of seeing some old friends of the Greenwalt family.  Earl Bigelow was a college buddy of my dad, and Earl was the one who invited dad to come to California to pastor in this "new frontier of mission work" in 1955.  We moved from Urbana, Illinois (home of the University of Illinois), to Lakeside, California (on the outskirts of San Diego).  Earl is now almost 93 years old and still preaches on occasion.  I have invited him to come to my church in the coming months.

R.E. Craig at the reception area with me

Rebekah, Bruce, Margaret and Sarah Wahlen

This is Earl Bigelow, almost 93 years of age, with me

Wayne Eurich is also a special friend of our family

I was greeted by Steve Lewis, a college student when my sister Marti and I were at California Baptist College in the late 1960s.  I got to talk to Stan White, retired pastor/Director of Missions and friend in San Diego.  I spoke at length with Wayne Eurich, a retired pastor who spent time pastoring in Germany at the same time my parents served over there.  It was a great joy to talk to R.E. Craig about my dad too.  He told a story of when he and my dad shared a motel room at a convention in Fresno many years ago, when they both were pastors in the San Diego area.  R.E. said, "Yes, we stayed at the Motel 6 when it really only cost $6 a night, so we each paid $3."

On Saturday, Sondra attended a Mother's Day Picnic that our church held out at Fairmount Park.  The weather has been very nice, starting to get on the warm side.  It was 90 degrees today.

Saturday, May 12, was Evan's 35th birthday.  He is still such a fun "kid," even as he grows older.  He and Callie went to a Red Bull X-treme motorcycle competition that afternoon.  He said it was amazing, with helicopter and airplanes doing acrobatics during the show as well.  We went to a restaurant Saturday night in Corona called Tap's Fish House and Brewery for his birthday dinner.  There were the eight of us -- me, Sondra, Evan, Callie, Crystal, Shawn and the two girls (Bailey and Brynnlee).  It was good food, but the service was extremely slow because of the crowd of people coming for early Mother's Day dinner.  It was good just to be together and say "Happy Birthday" to Evan.

Today is Mother's Day.  I bought a card and some roses and dark chocolate bar for Sondra.  We had a fun time at church in celebration of the day, handing out special gifts and tokens of appreciation.  There were 22 mothers across the front of the church to receive honor and thanks for their role as mothers.

After church, we went to Logan's Roadhouse in Fontana for a Mother's Day lunch special. There were eight of us again -- only this time, Alden was with us and Callie was with her mom. Sondra got gifts and cards and had tears in her eyes as she read some very special words penned to her in those Mother's Day cards.

This afternoon, Sondra made a German chocolate cake for a "day late" birthday dessert.  Evan loved it, and so did I.  I am tired from the week and plan to sleep very well tonight!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Confronting Death and Life and Workday Decisions

This last week had some very enjoyable times and some very sorrowful times.  It was a week where celebrations of life and death and were interspersed into my days.  It was a week in which difficult decisions had to be made because of confrontations in relationships.

Last Monday, I went over to the Coronado Stone manufacturing plant to discuss and make a decision about an individual who had been involved in a physical altercation in one of the Sober Living homes (where we house parolees who are in a Recovery Program while employed by the company).  One individual had become a little violent a few days before, and blows were thrown.  We made the decision on Monday to release him from the program and terminate his employment.  Most of you know that I serve as a consultant and director for this Good News Program, as well as filling the role of pastor as they attend my church.

While I was there, Mel Bacon (the owner of the company who is now a good friend) stopped to talk and told me he was willing to give a small donation to the church to help with some expenses.  God works through our relationships that we develop over time and shows his favor at opportune times.  Our church has been struggling with finances, along with everyone else in these tough economic times.

And on Monday evening, we celebrated Crystal's birthday.  She was born on April 30, 1979!  We all went to Stuart Anderson's Black Angus Restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga for a great time of eating and celebration.  There were nine of us together - Crystal, Shawn and the girls (Bailey and Brynnlee), Evan and his girlfriend Callie, and me and Sondra.  After dinner, Sondra and I went over to Crystal and Shawn's for a short while.  Here is a picture of Crystal on her birthday.

Last Tuesday, Sondra and I went to the Loma Linda University Hospital to visit our wonderful friend, Mr. Kaye Freeman again.  He is having severe difficulties with his breathing and other heart-related issues.

On Wednesday morning, I went over to Fontana to pick up my friend and church planter pastor, George Nelson, as he had come from Chatsworth to lead our Celebrate Recovery meeting the previous evening for the Sober House program.  We had a good breakfast together and caught up on the news of the week with each other.

Our two nieces (and their families) from Illinois and Michigan were out here for an upcoming wedding.  So, on Wednesday, we got together for lunch at the In-N-Out Burger place in Fontana.  There was a bunch of us:  niece Keri and Kevin and their three kids from the Chicago area; niece Kelli and her two teens from the Grand Rapids area; nephew Kirk and his baby Ezekiel (Tamra was working) from here in Riverside; their dad (Don) and his wife and two other older children of theirs from nearby Pomona.  It was noisy and fun.  It was great to see them all.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, I spent a bit of time with Bobby and Torie Anderson.  Bobby's mother, Velma, passed away and I had been asked to officiate the memorial service.  We talked and reminisced about Velma, who indeed was a very special lady and friend to us.  As I talked with Bobby and Torie, we narrowed the conversation to what they wanted the memorial service to be, as it was going to be a short graveside service only.  As we talked, it was both a time of laughter with good memories with moments of heart-wrenching tears because of the sadness of the loss of a wonderful woman so suddenly.

I had someone to take over the Wednesday Bible study and prayer meeting at church for me that night, as I took time with the Anderson family.

Early Thursday morning, I spoke at the devotional time at the Coronado plant.  It was National Day of Prayer, and I had been asked earlier to bring a word and time of prayer specifically for that focus.  I spent the rest of the day preparing for two funerals on Friday.

A friend at Coronado named Jesse asked me to read Scripture for his sister's funeral on Friday morning in San Bernardino.  His sister's adult children had already contacted a pastor to officiate, but Jesse wanted me to be included.  Arriving at the funeral home, the pastor then asked me to not only read a passage of Scripture but also to say a few words at the end and close the service with prayer.  I was only too glad to help in whatever way I was needed.

Soon after that funeral, I was to be at the cemetery in Bloomington, not too far away, for Velma Anderson's graveside service after a short viewing.  It was a sunny day with blue skies, very fitting for the time of celebrating Velma's 85 years of life.  She had been a school teacher, a person with a beautiful and sweet disposition.  I spoke and highlighted three words that described her best:  (1) mom, (2) friend, and (3) role model.  We went over to the family's house for a brief time of eating and remembrances.

I then went home and began preparing to leave for our annual Men's Retreat.  Our church (The Vision Plus Church) joins with the La Sierra Baptist Church in Riverside each year for a retreat at Paradise Valley Ranch in Hemet, about an hour from us in the foothills of the mountains nearby.  I was just drained physically and emotionally, and thankfully did not have any major part to fulfill at the retreat.  It was a time of spiritual rejuvenation and rest.  There were 10 of our men who attended and another 10 from the La Sierra church.  We are part of the Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association of churches, and our Director of Missions (Deryl Lackey) and Associate Director of Missions (Claudio Medina) were the featured speakers for the Bible study times.

Late Saturday night, after the last session, I drove home to sleep and be ready to preach Sunday morning at church.  Attendance was down, as there were many men absent, but we had a good time of worship and fellowship.  A lady had coordinated a bake sale after the worship service to help raise a little money for a Mother's Day outing this coming weekend.

After church, Sondra asked me if I felt like "getting away" for the afternoon.  I said, "Sure."  Sondra had taken care of the grandkids overnight Friday, and then gone to a Bridal Shower for her sister Sharon's daughter (Sarah) over on the coast.  Sondra and I just needed a time to ourselves to catch up on sharing about our activities and relaxing.  We drove down to La Jolla Cove in San Diego, listened to the ocean waves and sat in the sunshine and walked around the little lawn area above the Cove.  We ended the day by eating at one of our favorite food stands down there on Mission Gorge Road (Taco Fiesta), and then we came home!  I slept very well last night, thank you very much!