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!

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