Sunday, December 06, 2009
The last of the Sanchez children has entered into the coveted age of 5 years old, which means another can of coke on the table and another stick of gum will be offered in the car! Lizzy was our surprise and each day she lives up to that billing. Her bubbly personality and infectious laughter make her a joy to be around each day. At the same time, her willingness to sacrifice her body recklessly and to jump first and ask questions later, keep Lela and I praying that she and all her bones will hold up!
For now, she is 5 years old. We celebrated in typical fashion, enjoying cake and a pinata and a wonderful little girl that we love to pieces. Happy birthday sweetheart! Enjoy 5 as long as you can.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In my last post, I wrote about the grieving process that is still fresh in my heart and mind. I wrote that last post just a day before my wife had the surprise opportunity to go see Steven Curtis Chapman at Harvest Christian Fellowship. "Stevie C" has been one of her favorites for years. This particular service was going to be a special service on the subject of grief, something that both Chapman and Pastor Greg Laurie know well. Pastor Greg's son Christopher died just weeks before the 2008 Harvest Crusades and Steve's adopted daughter from China had been tragically killed around the same time. Their shared grief became the occasion for what was a wonderful evening of ministry entitled "An Evening Of Hope." Here is an excerpt from that evening.
When Lela returned home (I stayed home with sick children) she was really touched. Of course, she lost her brother Aaron a few years ago and is well acquainted with fraternal grief. She brought home Steven Curtis Chapman's latest CD, a gift from the friend that invited her, (Thank you Ella!) and a musical documentation of the grieving process that he went through after his daughter's death. (You can check out this piece written about it here.) The album is called "Beauty Will Rise" and I wholeheartedly recommend it to those who have dealt with the crushing blows of death. It has ministered to me greatly this last week.
I cannot think of a more refreshingly honest look into the heart of Christian grief than this album. It's tone is reverent and the message of each song, simply powerful. For someone who has gone through it, the articulation of emotions is exact. More than anything, it's a beautiful statement of faith from an honest and authentic Christian musician.
If you are going through grief or know someone who is, this would be an excellent purchase.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Saturday, November 14, 2009
These last several months have been a whirlwind of change. We have moved from our home in Ladera Ranch back into the Inland Empire. We have begun a Bible study in Colton. And, we have taken on the responsibility of educating our children through a Home School program. Change has become the norm, and there is more change to come. Throughout it all, I have grieved the loss of my sister, though from outward appearances, it may seem that I have not even lost a tear.
I assure you that I have.
There is a passage in the Bible that declares that Christians do not grieve as those without hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13) That means that Christians DO grieve. It's a process that each of us who have lost someone goes through. It cannot be denied and it will not be ignored. At the beginning, when I knew that Leah was going to die, there were greater emotional expressions. It was more raw. Today, farther from that last day, there are still tinges of sadness and regret. My heart just gets heavy every now and then. There is no warning and there is no pattern. They say that it comes in waves and that is the best way to describe it.
For example, I'm mowing the lawn and a thought comes to mind. I just automatically think, "Leah would like that..." only to immediately snap back into reality that she cannot like that, for she is no longer with us. Another example happened just the other night when our family went over to visit my parents. Leah's door opened and I instinctively thought that she would emerge. When it turned out to be my daughter, my heart just dove down again.
It's a strange set of feelings. None are so overwhelming so as to produce an outward display of emotions. Just simple sorrow.
Thankfully, I have hope. My trust that she is with Jesus continues to be my emotional anchor which keeps me from moving into the uncharted waters of depression. With every push toward emptiness, there is a greater pull toward the Lord, who always comforts His people.
Throughout it all, there have been questions that I have had to confront. Questions like, "Could this have been prevented?" and "How could God allow this to happen?" For the unbelieving world, the death of a loved one is another occasion to blaspheme God, pointing the proverbial accusatory finger in His direction. Ironically, most of the time, the unbelieving world refuses to acknowledge God in any way...until there is pain and all of a sudden, it's all His fault! The questions that come to us are questions that are built in and are an intrinsic part of the process of grieving. These questions provide me and every other believer in Jesus Christ, with the opportunity to thank God for who He is! Here is a little sample of what I mean:
• "Could this have been prevented?" God, who is sovereign, orders all things in the life of the believer in order that He might be glorified and bring lasting good out of even the most dire of circumstances. He chose the day and the hour for purposes that Leah now knows and that we will know when we join Him.
• "How could God allow this to happen?" God, who is loving, has allowed sickness and death to remain in the world, so that we might yearn for a life that we cannot lose. The choice of men to disobey God and sin has made illness and death a reality that God sent His own Son Jesus to pay for, so that we might not perish eternally.
• "Are you mad at God?" God gave us a wonderful gift in Leah and I enjoyed having my sister with us for 25 great years. His gift was to give us a lifetime of love and great memories. I'd rather live with the memories of my sister than to have never had them at all! Additionally, unless I am radically mistaken, real life happens after death for the believer! Leah's ordeal, as heart-wrenching and brutal as it was to observe, and as painful as it was to her physically, is NOTHING compared to what she experiences today! In fact, the Apostle Paul says that almost verbatim in the book of Romans:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
• "Why didn't God answer me?" God did answer me. His answer was not what I wanted to hear at the time, but He did answer. He answered "No" when I asked for physical healing. The question pre-supposes that unless He answers me the way I want Him to, then I will have not received an answer at all! That is a childish way to respond. I do not move God; He moves me, and while my faith allows me to partner with Him in things that He wills to do, I cannot manipulate Him using my faith to accomplish my will.
I am sure that there are a thousand other questions specific to each person's grief. Some are perhaps more personal than can be shared. This is not an exhaustive piece. It's meant to reflect my personal journey. The truth remains however, that there are answers and God wants to minister His comfort to you in the same way that He has comforted me. He has the answers and if you'll listen to His voice long enough, He'll give them to you, not because He's obliged, but because He wants to heal what has been hurt.
Thanks for listening...reading...
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Monday, October 19, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
It seems that a good portion of our family's life is spent inside our car. Whether it's a jaunt to Orange County for a dental appointment or it's house hunting in the Inland Empire, our car is the stable common denominator. Usually, we'll listen to some tunes, everything from Veggie Tales to Hillsong United. Over the last several trips, we've had to spend some time doing home school. I think that you get the picture: The car can get quite boring! So, out comes the camera.This obviously caught them off guard, so I thought, "I'll just snap a few more..."
As you can see, they are warming up to the idea.
Yep, they know the "red light" is on now.
They get it from their mother you know!
What? The girls are getting outshined? That won't last long...
You gotta love that the Bwudda is still trying...
It's two against one dude! It's only gonna get harder to get out in front of these two!
Here's looking forward to the next car ride with these three.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Monday, October 05, 2009
The Cat's Pajamas
We have been living with the Finfrock family over this last month and in that time, a new litter of kittens was born. There were six. Now there are three. Of course, that means that each of the kids has their own personal kitty. Renae has "Golden Rivers." Elizabeth, lacking a little in the creative department, chose to name her kitty "Salara." And my personal favorite, Caleb's is named "Army Droid Cat!"
The names have changed quite a bit, but they names of reflective of the solid gender line between the girls and the boy!
I will say that these kitties have brought great joy to our kids and have provided them with some great recreational time. Unfortunately, the kitties are traumatized and cannot wait for us to find a new place to live, in their little cat minds, preferably a non-cat friendly environment! Otherwise, the cats may be in for some prolonged exposure to our children. Good for the kids; bad for the cats!
Home Meet School
Since we are currently in another transition, we felt that it would be a bit unfair for the kids to have to begin school somewhere, only to be ripped out again when a more permanent solution was found. As a result, Lela checked online to see if she could find free home school for the kids and as always, my resourceful wife found it! She got the kids signed up and registered just in time.
For the most part, this has been a great decision. Both Renae and Caleb are doing really well. Lela works with Caleb and my mother-in-law, Debbie, works with Renae for several hours in the morning.
When we move, we may opt to return the kids to school, which would be great for their social needs, as well as our needs for sanity. But, one thing has been clear: We love to see our kids growing and doing well. That has been the trade off at this point, and we are happy to make that trade for now.
Renae Just Keeps Getting Older!
This last month, Renae celebrated her 8th birthday! It's hard to believe that she is 8 years old. I still remember when...oh, I sound like an old man! She continues to be a very thoughtful, bright and insightful little girl, who always has her Daddy's heart in her hands. I have loved watching her recover from all the little physical maladies that she suffered at infancy, as well as the mental difficulties of the upheaval that she has experienced. Today, she is much more well adjusted, laughing easier and trusting more. I have even watched her embrace the performer's limelight, something that had been anathema to her not that long ago.
On her birthday, we were granted entrance into Disneyland by a friend from Kingsfield Church. Renae got to enjoy her birthday, Caleb got to be trained by a Jedi Knight and Lizzy got to enjoy all the fast rides! It was a perfect day, made much more so by the wonderful smile of my little 8 year old!
We are beginning to look for a place to live and are looking in the Loma Linda area. Suffice it to say, there are a million little dynamics involved. Please pray that the Lord would lead us as we begin our search. Over the years, I have watched God answer my wife's prayers for places to live with great specificity. (He seems to really love her!) When we were in Spain, the place we got to live in was in perfect accordance with Lela's requests. I am sure that He will have no problem meeting those desires again. He has yet to fail us!
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Last night, we began our Bible study at the Gonzalez Center in Colton. I admit being completely overwhelmed the day of, mostly due to the anticipation. I had no idea what to expect. How many, if any, would come? Would they be young or old in the faith? How would the room feel? What songs would be appropriate for a group that has never worshipped together? Believe it or not, not knowing the answers to these questions really made it a difficult assignment. Usually, you at least know who you are speaking to, which is helpful in penning sermons. I was completely flying blind and the questions loomed large as the night quickly approached.
The answers came fairly quickly. 15 people joined us for the evening, spanning the spectrum from young and old, single and married, young and seasoned in the faith. It was a blessing to be there with them, most I have known for many years. A few were students that I met while they were in Junior High. A few I met when I married their daughter/niece! One couple I met in the first seconds of my life, though I do not remember that! One couple drove out from Cherry Valley, a healthy 35 minute drive, to be with us. Their presence, as well as the rest, encouraged my heart to know that we are stepping in the right direction.
We worshipped and then we studied Genesis 1:1. I had prayed and wondered about starting in Genesis. I wondered if it would be the right book. Once we got going, I felt that the choice was perfect and it set the tone for the weeks to come. (For those interested in the notes from the study, you can find them right here.) As I was teaching, I felt such joy and excitement to be able to share the Lord's heart, knowing that barring some extreme circumstances, I will not be interrupted in having the opportunity to continue week by week. There are no visa issues here in America as there were in Spain, and this is not a guest teaching experience! With the Lord's help, I will be able to build week by week with a group of people that God desires to sow His Word into.
At the end of the night, I was glad for what God had been doing in our midst. This morning, as I woke up, I began praying for each one, that God would allow His Word from last night, to soak deeply into their souls and that He would meet them in every one of their situations. I prayed specifically when I could and generally otherwise. It amazed me to experience the joy that that discipline brought to my heart, as well as the earnest desire to add to it next Thursday night.
What happens from here is a mystery. Will this be a long term Bible study or will this become a church body? I do not know. One thing is for sure : The ball is rolling! We have begun something that we pray will be a blessing to as many as God intends. With each passing week, we pray that the Lord would confirm that His hand is upon this. I am not worried about how many God brings, as that will always be His business. He is in charge of bringing increase. I'm just the farmer, sowing the seed. My concern is that those who come to the Thursday Night Bible Study will find an undershepherd waiting to feed and care for them. My bible college professor, Pastor Larry Taylor, said it best when he said, "Make sure that your sheep are the best loved, best fed sheep in the world." That is what I hope to live by.
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Both prayer and encouragement continue to be welcome!
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Friday, September 25, 2009
Somebody's mother once said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I want to amend just one part of this. "If you have nothing to say, then say nothing!" In many ways, that has been the story of these last few weeks. Everything has been behind the scenes, waiting on phone calls, studying for messages, scouring the internet for jobs, etc. Thankfully, as of Friday night, I finally have something to report.
As mentioned in my most recent post, I asked for your prayers regarding a meeting place for the Bible study that we feel led to begin in Colton. Initially, I had believed that my families home would suffice for a good meeting place. However, due to the size of the group that has talked about coming, we knew that before we even began, we would have outgrown the place. So the hunt was on.
Thankfully, with the help of a great friend, we came into contact with the folks that run the community center in town. As of tonight, we have been given permission to occupy! They have agreed to rent a room to us, and we are thankful to have the opportunity to use their facilities.
As a result, we are beginning the Thursday Night Bible Study THIS THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1st. It will begin at 7PM at the Frank Gonzalez Community Center in Colton. The building is located at 670 Colton Avenue in Colton, 92324. I am grateful to watch and participate with the Holy Spirit, as He begins a work that I pray will be a blessing to many and blossom into whatever the Father intends it to become. It seems only fitting to begin at the Beginning...We'll begin in the book of Genesis, a book (really, the entire Bible would work!) that I have a great affinity for.
Many have asked over the last several weeks about how or if they could give toward this work. This was a question that I needed to uncover myself! Last Tuesday, I received the answer. This Bible study is an outreach of Kingsfield Church. As a result, Pastor Chris gave his permission to officially exist under the umbrella of Kingsfield. If you are reading this and are one of the people that have asked, or you are wondering, checks can be made out to "Kingsfield Church" and in the memo, simply write "Colton Outreach."
Finally, as most of you know, this has been our families blogsite for the last several years. I want it to continue to be that and continue to invite any who would like to visit and see our family as it develops, to continue to do so. As a result, in the next few weeks, I will be separating this blog back toward my family and creating a separate blog for the Bible Study. I may merge the Bible Study and Bible notes page that already exists into one new blog. Eventually, perhaps an entire website will be in order, but that will come in time. For now, most of the "news" will be here until a different blogspot can be determined.
Thank you all for your prayers, your encouraging notes and you pledges of support, either financially or in the promise of your physical presence. I hope that all of you will continue to pray for this to be a special part of the fabric of Colton, as well as the Inland Empire.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I meant to blog this a little earlier in the week, but computer problems have arisen over the last day that have delayed this. Perhaps this falls under the "better late than never" labels for this blog. Nevertheless, as my good friend Kim says, "I must needs" get this to you.
As I have previously announced, I am about to begin a Bible study in the city of Colton. I have said on more than one occasion that I have no idea what to expect, but that I expect to teach the Word of God and worship Him with whoever God intends to bring our way. Tonight, September 10th, we begin the process in Spirit and even in practice. Over the course of the next several weeks, I will be meeting with family and some mentors on Thursday evenings, for the purpose of prayer and worship. We are asking the Lord several specific items. For those who read this blog, or who have been directed here through Facebook, please take some time when you can, perhaps even this evening at 7PM, and pray through this list of items with us.
One of the main items of prayer is a suitable location in Colton to meet. We have a few "feelers" out there, but are currently unsure as to a good, solid location to congregate. I had originally believed that my family's home would suffice, but have become quickly convinced that the space would be too constrictive. I am hopeful that there is a much more suitable place, and will focus my attention on that aspect next week when a good friend of mine returns from his vacation (you know who you are!!). I pray that he might be a big help in that regard.
For now, here is the current list of items that we would love you to join us in prayer over. This is by no means, exhaustive, but it gets the prayer fires stoked. I consider it a launching pad toward even more effective prayer. Feel free to disseminate this to any prayer warriors that you know, especially those who know us. We can use all the prayer we can get!
• Strength, wisdom and clarity for Frank as he attempts to follow the Lord's leading.
• The annointing of God's Spirit to rest upon Frank, as he proclaims the Word.
• The strengthening of Frank and Lela's marriage and family.
• The stirring up of hearts in Colton and surrounding areas for the Word of God.
• Strong, supportive partnerships would develop.
• The casting down of spiritual strongholds within Colton.
• Spiritual protection from the attacks of the enemy for Frank, Lela and the kids.
• A smooth adjustment for our kids as they acclimate to new pressures.
• A strategic, inexpensive location to meet on a weekly basis. Either is Colton proper or Cooley Ranch...
• Redeeming relationships in the community among Colton's Pastors.
• Opportunities to make friends and evangelize inside of the city.
• Employment and financial provision for the Sanchez family.
• A devoted team of leaders and elders would be identified.
• God would draw the hearts of those that He would like to touch.
• God's name would be magnified and lifted high, leading to unprecedented blessing.
• God's vision of what this should be would be realized.
That is it! Feel free to leave what you feel led to pray in the comments section of this blog entry. We would love to see what the Lord stirs in our friend's hearts.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Friday, September 04, 2009
by John Calvin
Without the gospel
everything is useless and vain;
we are not Christians;
all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.
But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made:
children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom
the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.
It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.
It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.
For, He was:
sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;
made a curse for our blessing,
sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;
he died for our life; so that by him
fury is made gentle,
darkness turned into light,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
force forced back,
war warred against,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
mortality made immortal.
In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.
If we are able to boast with the Apostle, saying, "O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things.
And we are
comforted in tribulation,
joyful in sorrow,
glorying under vituperation,
abounding in poverty,
warmed in our nakedness,
patient amongst evils,
living in death.
This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in Him and are offered to us by Him from God the Father.
"Let the people of God thank Him and be faithful to proclaim His good news!"
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Monday, August 24, 2009
The last few weeks at church, many of my conversations after church have begun thusly: "So, I hear you are leaving?" After answering "yes" the inevitable question of "why" emerges. Some of my answers amused me more than the inquisitive one. "Well, I usually leave when church is over!" I am still laughing at myself for that one!
The truth is that Lela and I and our kids are leaving Orange County effective August 31st and moving back to the Inland Empire. Our immediate goal is to begin a Bible study, with the hope of seeing what God would do with such a venture. Details on that study will be shared here at a future time.
How we came to this point is a long story. Back in the early part of this year, Lela and I, reflecting upon where we were, began to ponder our next step in ministry. We wanted to honor our desire to be the best parents possible, we wanted the kids near their grandparents and we wanted to work in the areas of our gifting, so as to best serve the Lord. I presented this conversation to Pastor Chris and we mused over it for a few months. Around May, we, Pastor Chris, myself and the board of directors, mutually decided that God had a move in mind. We pursued a few options, but each came short for one reason or another. Around mid-June, we presented a seminal idea of a Church plant in my home town of Colton. Discussions began in earnest, as it seemed that everyone was supportive and Lela and I were actually beginning to look forward to the work of such an endeavor.
The discussions came to an abrupt halt due to my sister's illness and subsequent death. We knew that they needed to continue, but at the time, we just did not have the heart. After the funeral, we presented a proposal to the board, who quickly came to a resolution for a healthy, majority portion of financial support. Our gratitude to the Kingsfield Board for their support, patience and wisdom in their oversight of this venture cannot be underscored.
That brings me to this: This final board decision came about just over a week ago. The timing is perfect, but certainly short, as our lease in Ladera is up and the kids need to begin school somewhere in the next several days. As a result, there is a seeming hastiness, but not all is as it seems and not all will come to as abrupt an end. For the next 3 months, I will continue to be at Kingsfield Church on a frequent basis, teaching the men for the Morning Fill and playing drums with Mr. Brook James on alternating Sundays. That is, unless something radical happens and a vibrant church emerges...who knows!
On the Kingsfield side, I want to let you friends know how much we love and value each of you. I apologize for not being able to share with you all sooner or in a more personal manner. As I mentioned earlier, many of you have come to me over these last several months. Suffice it say for now, that these last three years of my life have been amazing, mostly due to the fact that you are all truly faithful, remarkable believers. It has been a pleasure for Lela and I to be counted among you, and to have had the opportunity to minister, in our small way, to you. Thank you for embracing us from day 1. We have felt great love and that will never be forgotten. In a way, I envy Pastor Aaron Hale, my dear friend, who has come to Kingsfield. I pray that he, Johannah and Los Ninos Hale, will enjoy the warmth of Kingsfield love to an even greater measure.
On the Ladera side, we cannot have asked for better friends and a better community of people. These last two years have been remarkable. Thank you all (and you know who you are!) for your friendship, your generous hearts and your open garages that make this neighborhood sincerely amazing to live in. Your names were an added bonus to all that God did in our lives here. We didn't know that you guys would each be such important parts of our lives. I fear that we will never find as great a neighborhood as this one has been, or at the very least, I fear that my standards may be set too high as a result of having been here among you all. Many of the snapshots in my mind will include alley meals, studies at the McGranahan's and that awesome birthday celebration at Aliso Beach, where the men beat the ladies at Catchphrase! EPIC!
On the other side, we are beginning a Bible study and committing ourselves to watching God unfold what He wants to unfold in our lives and in the lives of those that He would bring into our midst. I pray that what we have seen in the past, will only be a tasty foreshadowing of what God will show in the future. I am as excited and scared as I can be! I cannot wait to see what happens next! It could be a church, it could be a series of Bible studies. The Lord will guide us from here along with the hearts of those who might sense a call to join us. I can't wait to see what names will accompany this group! I'm excited!
Well, there is much to do. This week, come Wednesday night, we will be neck deep in moving out of our place. This weekend, we'll be moving to Lela's gracious Dad and Mom's home in Mentone. There is a lot to pray about from there. I pray that I can count on each of you for that part.
Here's to the God who answers prayers, unfolds vision and does wonders!
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Monday, August 17, 2009
Yes, it's a Guns n Roses song lyric, but it also aptly describes this blog. For the last several weeks, I have employed this blog to announce news of my sister's condition, and ultimately her memorial service. During that time, we had the highest traffic that this site has ever seen, numbering well over 4,000 hits. On one day, we had over 800 views to our site! It was truly unbelievable. Of course, we are now back down to our usual number of views, and I thank you for checking in on us...whoever you are!
But, as the title suggests, it's time to return to the usual fare normally presented on this site. I will say that a lasting memorial of my sister Leah remains on this page over to the right where all of our YouTube videos are. I loaded the slideshow that we had at Leah's memorial onto our YouTube channel, in case you wanted to check it out. It was done beautifully by our friend Billy Gedney, who graciously volunteered his time and talents to bring those pictures into digital reality.
Now, moving on, there really is a LOT to tell you...But, I can't just yet! Until then, I thought I would pound out a "tidbits" blog, just to get my fingers back into blogging shape. So here it goes:
- Tonight, my kids performed a show in our alley with their friends. It was a dance/lip sync routine. It was absolutely hilarious! It made me happy, not just because it was incredibly cute, but because it was my daughter Renae who really showed no fear of being in front of people! It was great to see her enjoying the performance. Afterward, they signed autographs and had a "Meet The Dancers" after show hang. It was precious.
- It's summer and that means Baseball. I am not much of a fan, but around August, when there is nothing else going sports-wise, I dig in and see what the Dodgers are doing. I will always love the Dodgers in August and I plan to take the kids to a game soon.
- Speaking of Baseball, does anyone else think that Baseball needs to move a bit faster? I have some suggestions:
• More than 2 foul balls after a full count = Strikeout
• Once in the batter's box, you cannot get out.
• New pitcher gets 5 tosses instead of the customary 10...they've been warming up for awhile...
• Nobody ever gets to argue any calls...ever!
• Intentional walk is a card pulled out of the Pitcher's back pocket.
• No more off-speed pitches!
• Strikeout and then throw the ball directly back to the pitcher. Going around the horn is ridiculous!
• Home Run. Do you REALLY NEED TO GO RUN ALL THE BASES!? WE KNOW THAT YOU HIT IT OUT!
• Extra innings!? Let's get sudden death going! First team to get one out of the infield wins!
• No stopping for signs. In ear monitors will allow the base coaches to communicate...using WORDS!
- It's currently 11:16PM as I write this. Tonight, we gave the kids the ability to stay up as late as they wanted to. Both Caleb and Lizzy are out. Renae is going strong, drawing away in her room! She is SO her Father's Daughter!
- I have been traveling through the Old Testament with my kids at Bible BedTime. We are currently in Exodus. Certain parts can be so incredibly funny when intersperced with creative license. The kids loved when Pharoah's daughter kept closing the lid on crying Moses. They loved the way Moses tried to roast marshmallows after the burning bush incident. ("That gives me an idea!?") Currently, we are learning about the plagues and the humor is helping them remember! It's cool.
- My brother Mike came over to our home yesterday and purchased some tunes from the iTunes music store. Usually, Mike is from Mars and I am from Venus when it comes to music. Tonight however, I must admit that I am digging one of his purchases. It's the music of Josh Garrels, the album is "Over Oceans" and the tune that I'm loving at this late hour is "Break Bread." The whole album has a Jack Johnson vibe to it, if you like that sort of thing!
- Speaking of music, I love the Chick Corea Elektric Band. One of my favorite songs is "Got A Match." Here's a guy that plays the entire song...by HIMSELF! Sickening!
- When next you pray, please lift up my lovely wife Lela. She had a root canal today and has been suffering with jaw pain for the last several weeks, needing a root canal, but thinking it was a crown issue. I pray that she'll feel relief real soon. Pray that with me!
- Finally, it's 11:45 and Renae is OUT! So much for making it to 3AM...
I guess, I better hit the hay as well!
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Last night was Leah's memorial service. I don't think that I will say anything more seemingly contradictory than this, but her memorial service was a phenomenal time! Generally, "memorial" and "phenomenal time" do not occur in the same sentence. I really believe though that the experience is aptly described by these words. I'll explain further in a moment.
First, I want to thank you for all of your support of our family over these past weeks, culminating in an overwhelmingly beautiful coronation last night. I know that I speak for the family when I say that just your presence alone was touching beyond words. But then, there were the words of encouragement and love that lasted well over an hour after the ceremony was over. The flood that swept over us was a healing wave that God gave to each of us. Thank you so much.
Additionally, I wanted to thank the people that did not make it to me after the service, but that did make it. I wish that time would have permitted a personal greeting, but I recognize the time constraints that keep such things from being a reality. Needless to say, I saw many more from the stage than had time to come and visit my "hug line."
Finally, a few notes of thanks to Pat Watson, Billy Gedney, Terry Oelrich, Ed and April Sanabia, Steve and Isy Nieves, who did sound, the slideshow, the photo collage and the music with us last night. You gave the night such beauty and helped bring to us the life that Leah experiences now without interupption. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Pastor Ed Rea and his secretary Jean Fowke, who opened the doors wide open and gave us the opportunity to hold the service there at the Packinghouse.
To me, the pinnacle moment from this service, that I will always remember, came at a time that wasn't supposed to happen. We had practiced two songs, "When The Tears Fall" and "I Will Rise." The latter of the two spoke of angels singing of the worthiness of God. I was excited to sing this song, as I felt that it expressed a chorus that Leah would be singing. That song was mighty and beautiful. But then, what I thought was a mistake, opened the doors to the moment of the night.
My brother Richard started into the song "Mighty To Save" and it was so right! It was perfect! Immediately, with the fresh spontaneity of the theme and the fact that Jesus had "conquered the grave," the entire assembly stood to their feet and raised their hands to heaven. The whole band joined in, while I raised my own hands, mostly because I did not know the chords! I would not have wanted to play in that moment anyway! I wanted my hands to be free and I wanted to raise them to the Lord in thanksgiving for what He had done for my sister and what He will one day do for me.
When those hands went up, I had a picture come into my mind of us releasing Leah into heaven, though she has been there for a little over a week! I felt that in that moment, my picture of her was completely lost in the praise of our King. In that moment, all the sadness morphed into uncontrollable joy and I felt that wonderful smile of God that comes when His people worship Him with one heart! It was great to be there.
Thank you again for joining us and making that moment so special.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The memorial service for Leah will be held on Monday evening, August 3rd at 6:30PM. The service will be held at the Packinghouse in Redlands. The address is 27165 San Bernardino Ave., Redlands, 92374. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Packinghouse Christian Academy, with a separate note attached indicating that the donation is in Leah's name. All donations will be used to offset tuition costs for families in need.
We pray that this will be a joyous occasion of celebration. All are welcome to attend.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Many have asked about the memorial service that will soon be held for my sister Leah. I will be able to confirm the precise date and time here on this blog tomorrow. For now, I can confirm that it will be early next week and it will be held at the Packinghouse in Redlands. I pray that those who can, will join us for this celebration of Leah's life.
I wanted also to take a moment to remind you that I have set up a temporary email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you to those who have emailed in. Your memories have been fun to read and sincerely touching to our hearts. Some have even used the address to pass along messages to my Dad and Mom, Mike and Maria, regarding their impact in their lives. That's also been a blessing to read, so feel free to keep those coming as well.
The family is doing well, considering the circumstances, and have been greatly comforted by a great throng of supportive friends. On their behalf, I say "thank you very much."
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Friday, July 24, 2009
Today is the day of salvation. My sister Leah has fully realized the breadth of her salvation, as she walked into the gates of heaven, this morning at around 7:50AM. There are no more tears, there is no more pain and there she will never experience death again! We praise the Lord today for His promises and the assurance that while we can never have her with us again, we will eventually join her because of the salvation that we have by the grace of God through our faith in His unique Son Jesus Christ, whose Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and directs our lives toward holiness and eventually, Heaven.
I am going to miss my sister's easy laugh, her simple lifestyle and her carefree disposition. She was so fun to be around. I will always remember how we made each other laugh and carried on archival humor to the "umpteenth" degree. One of my great memories was when Leah and I sat at the breakfast table years ago. She was complaining about her arms being disproportionate to her body. One thing led to another and we began talking about making wooden replacements. We laughed until everything hurt. For some reason, it was so funny to us. For Grandma and Mom, who were witnesses to this, it was just funny to watch us laugh! It was from this moment that we began calling her "Woods."
Then the joke just became a part of all of our interactions. We would talk about her planting herself outside among "her woodland kin" at night. When the Lord Of The Rings trilogy came out, we talked about what had to be her favorite scene, when the trees approach to attack Isengard. I think that you get the idea.
Our kids, who had the great privilege of being around her often, referred to her as "Auntie Woods." They would ask, "When is Auntie Woods coming to stay with us?" The truth was she would come whenever we asked her, which was usually about once a month. She would stay the night and hang with us for a while, which was always an adventure.
One of the times that she came out to be with us, a tire flew out of the back of a truck and struck her windshield on the 91 freeway. She got here and her windshield was fully shattered and just teetering on viability. The next time she came out, fires had broken out in Corona, blocking a direct route home. I told her that she was going to have to drive south to the 76 (the 74 was closed) and then cross over to the 15 north. If any of you have driven on that road, you know that it's a lonely road, especially at night. She blew her back tire just before entering the "Cell Phone Dead Zone." She was literally 2 offramps from being completely out of range! That was a long night, but even that became a great source of entertainment for both of us.
The kids loved having Auntie Woods here. She played with them, took pictures with them and let them wake her up at the most ungodly hours of the morning. She always showed such great love for each of them, and I am so thankful that they were the recipients of that great love.
My sister had the distinction of not just being the only sister in the brood, but she was also the only sibling with whom I never fought! That's pretty tremendous if you know how bull headed I am! As I think about it, Leah was also distinctive in the fact that she alone graduated from High School without any drama! Then, she is the only one of us to finish her Bachelors degree, and that, from the University of Redlands! I remember sitting there that day, a few years ago, being so proud when they called her name, but also wishing that she could have graduated in the Spring! GEEZ IT WAS HOT!!
There are so many other memories. Trips that we took, things we laughed about, trouble that we watched others get in. I have 25 years of memories that I will always keep in the forefront of my mind. Today however, I am asking for you, her friends and associates, to help me memorialize her. I have set up a new email address, email@example.com, and am asking you to email your stories, memories pictures and adventures with Leah there. I want to use some of it for the memorial that will happen soon, but I also want to share it here, as well as with my family. If you would do that, it would be a great blessing.
Thank you all for your care and concern, both for us and for our sister Leah.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
For those of you who have not heard, my sister Leah is in the hospital, having suffered initially from a condition called a "Thyroid Storm." I had never heard of it before it hit Leah, but the gist of it is that the thyroid over produces and blitzes the senses of the body. At present, she is in critical condition in the ICU of a hospital near our family home in Colton. Her prognosis is not good and we continue to ask for prayer through every outlet possible.
We learned of Leah's condition as we were leaving from Family Camp just 10 days ago. She had been admitted to the hospital the Thursday prior, 2 days before. When we got to the hospital, we assumed that she was suffering from an advanced form of the flu and would simply need a few days to recover. Immediately upon getting to the hospital, the severity of what had come upon Leah began to dawn upon us. She was lucid, but definitely not right. She was dizzy and a bit disoriented and had a fever that had not abated for several days. We were worried, but did not consider this to be life threatening until later that day.
The words "Thyroid Storm" had been uttered by one of the nurses during our visit. We came home and Googled it. The alarming statistic that jumped off of the page was that those who did not catch this in time had a 90 percent mortality rate! From this point on, we wondered if Leah had caught this in time. Shortly after our visit, Leah was put under sedation and put on a ventilator to help facilitate her breathing, which a nasty cough had begun to interrupt.
From where we have been standing, this was done to help fight off the infection that was present in her body and to allow her to heal. Unfortunately, at some point, this became more than a preventative measure and has now become full life support.
In the middle of this, Leah suffered a massive ischemic stroke. Just this past Sunday, I went to see my sister and was completely overwhelmed at her condition. Monday, I was called and told about the extent of the stroke. Tuesday I was again called and invited to a meeting with the doctors to discuss how our family would like to proceed in light of Leah's condition. I returned Wednesday to attend the meeting with the Doctors. Leah was given a 10% chance of survival and if she does, only a 10% chance that she will ever exist out of a vegetative state. Today, I go in to see my sister, perhaps for the last time on Earth.
This journey has been surreal and absolutely bizarre. For many of you who are aware of loss and how it affects you, I don't need to tell you about the feelings. Some days, in this situation, there have been causes for hope and then just as quickly causes for dread. It's amazing to me that I can carry on a conversation, or play with my kids and completely get swept away in that. And then, immediately after completing either the conversation or the playing, my mind and heart race back toward thoughts and prayers for my sister. I go to sleep praying for her and the second that I wake up, that conversation continues as if it hadn't stopped. I alternate between the good memories of 25 years and the deep sadness that there is in the awareness that there may not even be 25 more hours!
Thankfully, I do not grieve without hope. Our family is strong in it's belief that Leah is in the hands of Jesus Christ and that when she dies, she will immediately be comforted for eternity in the arms of her Savior. She loves the Lord and will soon be with her. I have confronted the same questions that everyone does and am thankful that the Lord has answered them to my heart's satisfaction. He has met me in my laughter and now, He has met me in my grief.
We ask for your prayers, first, that the Lord would deal mercifully with Leah. Second, for our family, as we deal with the potential loss of a treasured family member. But most importantly, pray for the glory of God that WILL shine through, either through miraculous intervention or by godly testimony.
Thank you for all your prayers and support. It has meant a great deal to us.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Saturday, July 04, 2009
I run the risk of trivializing Holy Scripture with a current sports analogy, but I hope that you might indulge me for a paragraph or two. Recently, the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic for 2008-2009 NBA World Championship. To say that I was elated is to diminish my excitement! I have been a Laker fan since 1980 when they beat the Philadelphia 76ers. I have watched the ups and downs and enjoyed the ride.
This last championship run, I watched most of the games as they happened, though I admit that I watch them through an open hand, sort of like kids do when they watch scary movies. They want to see it all, but the pressure is almost too much. It's the same with me and the playoff games as they happen. Will they win or lose? Will it be a heartbreaker? Truthfully, my heart can barely handle the pressure.
But then, in just about 2 months from the end of the finals (July 14th to be exact), I will be watching the highlights of the playoffs on the year end DVD. By then, watching the games will be a very different experience. There will be enjoyment of every play, even an appreciation and admiration of the "enemy" players. All the drama will be simulated and accentuated by music, but the outcome, the true source of tension, will be established. No matter how the game appears, the end is determined.
Perhaps our lives are much like this. Here is where the scripture comes in.
Recently I decided to spend the day studying Psalm 23. As is usual with familiar passages, most of the phrases and words have been studied and dissected. However, in the wonder of God's Word, there is always a timely piece that brings meaning and encouragement, perhaps more than it's whole. The verse that I zeroed in on is verse 6. David writes, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
Notice the certainty: "Surely." There is not a shred of doubt in this verse. It's a given, a promise, a guaranteed condition for those who have joy in their relationship to their Shepherd. It's a human condition to waver and doubt, but upon full analysis, one comes to the conclusion that there is nothing more sure than God's benevolent hand delivering His to the greatness of "goodness and mercy."
This does not mean that there are not questionable moments along the way. This does not negate the questions of the moment, which are often asked along the journey. "Where are you in this?" or "Why is this happening?" The paralysis of our hearts is in the moment when we are right in the middle of a story that God is writing and that we are living. It's there where the pressure mounts and we can hardly stand to anticipate anything good.
But David knew: "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life."
As I look back that has been the case over and over again. Whether it was a personal crisis or a professional one, goodness and mercy have followed me. They will continue to be by-products of my walk with the Lord.
I was thinking the other day about an exchange that I have witnessed several times. It's the family gathering where a Father and Mother sit with their now grown children and talk with great humor about all that had gone before. "Remember when we didn't have any food in the cupboards...," "Remember when his hair lit on fire...," "And then she swallowed a whole pack of gum." All such moments had proved stressful when they happened. There were crises of faith, tests of determination to trust in the Lord's goodness. In those moments, as they happened, there were cries of doubt and fear. However, as the years pass and the moment passes with it, there is a joy in the remembrance.
How is that possible? God's goodness and mercy flowed out and answered the crisis and answered the questions that once plagued the mind. Looking back reveals that God proved Himself faithful again, quieting our anxious hearts and minds and giving joy and rest in it's place.
Today, on the cusp of uncertainty, no matter the circumstance, we can remind ourselves that it's a foregone conclusion that only time keeps from us: Goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.
Thank you Lord for being our Shepherd.
Blessings...To Our Friends...And Fellow Sheep!,
Monday, June 29, 2009
Did June just go by that quickly!? Wow! So, here's June in a blog post:
• Renae has finished her first grade year with the distinction of being a "gold medal" winning reader. Apparently, the requirement for acquiring said gold medal is 20 minutes of reading per night. Renae, with her love of reading, FAR EXCEEDED that requirement. She received her medal on her last day of school...I'm pretty sure she lost it that same day!
• When last I blogged, I mentioned that my Father-In-Law had a book that was about to come out. Well, it's out and its a good read! Check it out at the ICM website, which can be found here.
• I also mentioned that Dan was going to speak at our Men's monthly Steak & Study in June. He did and he did great. The men who came were blessed, especially some young men that came from a local skate park in the area. Dan gave an altar call at the end of the evening and three young men from the group responded. Pastor Jono, Kingsfield's Youth Pastor, spoke with them afterward and reported that they were incredibly impressed, remarking simply that "church was 'expletive deleted' awesome!" My Father-In-Law is not the slick young Pastor with all the right cultural expressions. But he faithfully exposited the Word of God, called sinners to repentance and God powerfully moved in the activity of salvation. God is always faithful when His methods are trusted!
• This last week was our church's Vacation Bible School. I wrote an entire post about last year's V.B.S. here. This year's V.B.S. was even better than last year. Brenda Paternostro, Kingsfield's Children's director outdid herself again this year, producing an environment based on the sub-plot of a movie premiere. The movie "Abbondanza" was to reveal the real nature of life in abundance. The days were filled with games for the kids, energetic worship and great skits. All the kids who came had a great time. Our kids haven't stopped talking about it, nor have they stopped listening to the CD that comes with the week!
• Proud Daddy moments from last week's V.B.S.: Caleb praying in front of the entire assembly at the end of Wednesday's worship! I loved his simple spirit, but was surprised to hear "Lord, we beseech thee to make thine will apparent to our hearts..."
• Worship at V.B.S. is truly an amazing sight to behold. All 80 something kids doing hand motions, dancing around, laughing, meant that there was pure joy in that sanctuary. Watching that reminded me of Psalm 16:11, which says, "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." It's also pretty awesome to watch my daughters trying to re-create the experience by performing the worship songs in their room! If only we adults could be so inspired!
Most of what I have written tonight gives me pause for thanksgiving. Whether it's my children or the activities that I get to partake of and witness, I get to enjoy a wonderful life.
I hope that you are enjoying yours.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Blessings...To Our Friends,
I love you sweetheart! Happy Anniversary!
To all who have been a part, in big and small ways, thank you for being a part of our lives.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
One of the beautiful things about blogging for me, is the lack of schedule. It's the one thing in my life that does not require daily attention. It can always be what I need it to be and nothing more. It's always faithful to represent me correctly (though Lela USUALLY agrees with what I write) and is always ready for more...or less.
When I began blogging, there was so much more purpose involved. I wanted to give our mission supporters a place to check in on us at their leisure. We were in Spain and wanting to communicate, I blogged 3 times a week. When we moved back to the States, the focus gradually changed. I was no longer needing to communicate, as life started to groove. Who wants to read, "I got to work at my usual time, though I did notice a longer than usual lag on the 5 at El Toro!"
No, that would not make for compelling blogging! (I'm not sure that THIS makes for compelling writing either!) But I still blog.
To be completely honest, I am not even sure why I do anymore, except that I expect that I will one day (perhaps soon) return to blog on more weighty matters. Perhaps the blogs that I have been writing for sometime will be considered over time as "that period before he had something important to say!" (I wonder if there will ever be "blogger historians?")
Is there a way to say, "keep checking back, not for what I write right now, but because something is bound to happen sooner or later that's worth noting!?" Who knows, but there may be a major announcement...soon! You never know!
Until then, I want to note a few things that are either happening, or are about to happen that you might find interesting:
• Lela and I are about to celebrate our 12th year anniversary! Seven of those years have been with children, four were concerned with getting to or staying in Spain and for three, we have been involved in Orange County.
• My Father-In-Law, Dan Finfrock, founder of Intensive Care Ministries, is coming out with a book very soon called "Intensive Faith." For those who have ever sat and listened to Dan's adventures, you know that his stories always leave you marvelling. I'll let you know when it comes out.
• Speaking of Dan and speaking of speaking, he will be the guest speaker at next month's Steak & Study! That news just happened yesterday and it's being reported here first! For those who want to come, who happen to be Men, mark your calendars for June 18th.
• I heartily recommend this to anyone: Pastor Alistair Begg has graciously released over a thousand sermons for free download at this site. There are few Pastors that I enjoy as much as Pastor Begg. I hope that you will soon enjoy a series or two. His prayers, often more deep and articulate that 50% of the pulpits in America, are alone worth taking notes on! Always insightful, Alistair Begg also has a hint of a Scottish accent, which is a total bonus!
• I am about to finish my third Men's Study "The Power Of One: One Man, One Life, One Mission," in about two weeks. The notes for all 24 weeks are available here. I offer them to anyone with insomnia!
• This blog was written while listening to "Tetsuo Sakurai: Gentle Hearts 2004" and waiting at Pep Boys for my brake/alignment job to be done. Not interesting, but I wanted to share anyway! This day has inspired me to see if I can't learn about a dozen things relating to vehicle repair!
• Weird things that have developed "peeve" status in my life: Atmospheric keyboards at the beginnings of songs, creating music on just one side of your headphones, going to the mailbox before the mail has come and the "suggestions" on Facebook. I'm so glad I got that out! Thank you!
• Look for a new video later this week, featuring Caleb entitled: "No Escaping Destiny!"
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Actually, it was 6 years ago this past Thursday. But when you are a kid, and really, for that matter, for an adult, who likes to celebrate on a Thursday? I would suggest that Thursdays are second only to Mondays in terms of lame celebration days! Anyway, I digress...
I remember the first day we brought the BWUDDA home. It was a hot sunny day in Redlands. Redlands Community hospital released us with our son and the plan was to take him over to church and then home, where Renae would see him for the first time. I remember being so proud and excited at the prospect of having a son. That feeling has not abated.
In fact, it's more of a joy everyday. Caleb often brings a new level of goofy humor to the table each morning. His joy is positively infectious. I hope that he enjoys us, as much as we enjoy him.
I know that he thoroughly enjoyed this day. It began around 8AM with the girls coming into our room to wake us up. They excitedly reminded us for the 50 thousandth time, that this was Caleb's birthday and that we were to go and "surprise" him. We all got up and yelled "surprise" and sung "Happy Birthday." He rolled out of bed with that signature smile and the day was on.
A party ensued, gifts were given, a pinata was destroyed by my iron fist and cake was consumed. The end of the party had Caleb running around with his new Bug Vacuum (shown in this picture) which was the run away favorite gift.
Our son is the very best. We love him so much and are thankful that he had an amazing birthday.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Monday, May 04, 2009
Sunday mornings are a bit unique for me as a Pastor. In the congregation that I currently serve, Sunday mornings for me, is drumming, serving Kingsfield Church as the foundation of the worship band. I'm a drumming Pastor! Sometimes, I walk off the stage and walk through the sanctuary and only relate to people based on my drumming. Most of the comments are complimentary (naturally! :), and we celebrate the nature of the music, which is always fun. However, as great as it is to be well thought of as a drummer, it is better to have what happened yesterday.
After coming off of the stage and another "scintillating" set, (said with my tongue firmly in my cheek, as this drummer dropped not one, but two sticks in the same section of one of the last songs of the morning!) I saw a group of people that were waiting to talk with me. I knew that this group of people was not interested in talking with me about the drums.
The first couple is a couple that I spent a half dozen weeks with last year in pre-marital counseling. As with most of my couples, we formed a bond over the process, and it has been a joy to see them walking in as a married couple. They stood in front of me, hardly able to contain themselves, as they announced that they were now pregnant, due to deliver in December! It was great to celebrate that moment with them and because they were so great to counsel, I made up the concept of "Pre-Infant Counseling!"
After talking with them, the next couple in that group came up to thank me. Just last week, this couple was in a major life dilemma, the man, facing his own mortality. I had been advised of his condition and agreed to see him in the hospital. Of course, at that moment, I had assumed that he was at a nearby hospital, at least within Orange County. When I realized who this was, I also realized that he actually lived in Riverside County, which wasn't bad, but still required a trip on the dreaded 91 freeway! Still, not that bad. Then I called the couple, just to get room information and schedule a time to come and see them. It was a this point that I was told that he was being transferred...TO FONTANA! Fontana is in San Bernardino County! I had already promised and with his condition being so dire, I knew than an "over the phone" blessing was out of order.
I made it to Fontana (known to the locals as "Fontucky!) just in time to pray for this brother before he went in for the procedure that would determine whether or not he had a heart attack or an infection near the heart. He was scared at the prospects, as is natural, and staring down the tunnel of mortality that no man at age 35, believes that he will see. We prayed together and then I prayed with his wife and daughter. About 45 minutes later, I was called and told that the doctors had discovered and confirmed that this was an infection and that it should reverse itself with the proper medications.
Of course, at that time, I did not expect to see these two together for a few weeks, but here they were! He looked strong and was so thankful that I had come to pray with him. He didn't know that I was the one that was thankful for the experience.
After catching up with these two, I ran across another couple that I counseled pre-maritally last year. (Last year, I had 5 couples, not many by former Redlands standards, but still enough for me.) I got to do the ceremony for this couple and I admit that there is great deal of love that I have for them. On the one hand, they are living out a wonderful, godly marriage. On the other hand, the husband is a brand new Christian with a sordid past, but a wonderful future. He and I have been meeting together weekly for discipleship. I am blessed by his questions and the zeal that he has for the Word of God. Each week, he challenges me with the latest barrage of questions. The answers might be a blessing to him, but the questions are the blessing to me!
Finally, I got to the back of the Sanctuary and met with yet another woman who I had visited in the hospital the week prior. Unfortunately, her condition has not vastly improved and her family's situation is a very difficult one. She updated me on things and I was again able to pray for her, with this young man that I have been discipling, laying hands alongside of me. I know that it seems weird to those who do not do this type of work, but I believe that anybody can relate to seeing someone take on the same practices that you find so valuable, negative practices excluded of course!
This process took up most of the time that fellowship usually happens at our church, but this was enough. Ministry, like any other position in life, has it's ups and downs. Often, the "downs" take precedence in our minds and most of our energy is focused there. However, it's true that when these "ups" happen, it makes all the "downs" worth every second. To have any of these moments, there must be necessary, reciprocal expenditure into investing relationship. I am grateful to have been spent for this cause, the cause of Christ being honored and glorified in the lives of individuals who now carry the same passion for Him that I do.
For those in ministry, let me remind you that this is your joy and crown. Your investment, even if you do not see it manifest in this way, is seen by the Lord, who will reward you. Be encouraged. It's worth every moment.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
One of the great advantages of working at a Church is the steady flow of information that you can get on your own kids. I tend not to seek information out and Brenda, our children's ministry director, rarely gives a bad report. However, when she comes across something wonderful that our kids do, she comes and shares it with me. She brought me Renae's prayer request today. It concerns Renae's new 2 month old cousin Charis. Her request looks like this:
"god please help Cusen Karis to be a foller of you're kindom from Renae"...a little heart under her own name!
While the spelling is nothing to be proud of, the sentiment is!
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I have been on vacation this last week, which has been very necessary for my mind and body. Thankfully, it was a great and restful week. Now, it's time to re-start my mind and get ready for a busy season coming, as summer rapidly approaches. Here's a few things that I have been thinking about this last week:
- I love living in Ladera Ranch! I would almost say that it's the greatest place on Earth. Great nature trails, awesome parks, perfect pools and quiet when it's right to be quiet. It's a great place to have a "Staycation." If anyone wants to vacation here, let us know and maybe we can rent out our extra room to you!
- That being said, this last week, we had an attempted robbery of the Wells Fargo bank very near to us. The robber parked his Mercedes right around the corner from our house. He biked to his car from the bank, dropped his bike and escaped in his Mercedes. Unfortunately for him, all of the neighborhood kids were out there and easily identified the man and his car! He was caught within 5 minutes! He was "Scooby Dooed!" "I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those kids!" Bravo kids!
- Speaking of bikes, the kids and I have done 3 bike rides this week. It's incredible fun to be able to play with the kids this way. Of course, there will always be stoppage when a "rolly polly" is found! The girls can't get enough of those things.
- We went to the Dollar Theatre in Woodbridge this last week. $1.00 on Tuesdays, $1.50 on other days, for second run films. Not bad! We saw "Hotel for Dogs." I won't be able to get that 2 hours back! But the kids got a few good laughs in.
- Thanks to Carrie Allen, we got the chance to stay at the Double Tree hotel in Del Mar for free. Well, mostly free! We got there and the man at the desk said, "Have you met up with your group?" Lela and I looked at each other and I responded to the man, "We are our group!" The man asserted that there were 40 of us. I looked back at him and said, "I promise: It's just us!" I quickly discovered that we were part of a group that was to take a tour of the facility and then have a group dinner. "OH, it's a sales pitch!" I'm slow!
- Hilarious moment of the tour for me: "We have ________ skin products in all of our bathrooms, provided exclusively to the Double Tree." You mean, those little shampoos and conditioners can only be found here!? No wonder people steal them!
- Best moment of the evening: At dinner, we sat at the same table with 4 Arabic Christians who go all over the Arab world performing Medical mission work. Their work is inspiring.
- On my iPod this last week: A series on the "Work of the Word" by John MacArthur, Isaiah 35 by Chuck Smith, Themes From James by R.C. Sproul and "God's Purpose And Plan" by James MacDonald. Cap it off with a visit to Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills today with a sermon by Dave Rolph on Ephesians 4. I feel so full of the Word and grateful for gifted men.
- Record highs on the last day of this vacation. As I type, I am enjoying the slightest breeze, but not nearly enough. I am not ready for summer conditions yet.
- AND FINALLY, since I was young, I have been a huge Laker fan. The Lakers beat the Jazz today in game 1 in their race for their first title since Uncle Chick died. If you are unable to reach me during Laker games, don't take it personally.
Hope you have a great week.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Sunday, April 12, 2009
As if my last post was not enough, I still had some leftovers this morning as I woke up. By the way, it amazes me, how one can sleep on a thought, only to wake up and be right back in the same conversation! It's as if I didn't sleep at all, though I truly did not sleep very much, given the Sunrise service at 6AM...anyway, I digress.
Here is my final thought that was born out of my pondering the message of the resurrection. I believe that the resurrection says something like this, from Jesus to the unbelieving world:
"If you must go to hell, you must first trample over my dead body at the cross and the love that was shown there. Then you must walk through my empty tomb and ignore the power that was displayed there. Then, you must explain away the life that I live through my people and the joy that is evident there. You might make it, but I have made the road as difficult as possible to travel."
These of course, are my words, encompassing a message that I believe speaks greater volumes than can ever be captured in one blog post. The beauty of the resurrection is that it will inspire me to try again and again!
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Tonight, I sit here knowing that I represent a minority of people on this Earth, who are still fully convinced that Jesus Christ is God, has come in the flesh, accomplished the work of salvation through His life, death and subsequent resurrection. His life is our example. His death was our punishment. His resurrection is our promise that we will experience the same!
500 people saw Jesus after His resurrection, most of whom were alive when the New Testament was written. Most of the 12 disciples suffered violent deaths, which could have been avoided if they had just recanted their faith. Today, millions of Christians have experienced the peace that comes with knowing Christ. Alternately, millions of Christian missionaries remain in hiding for fear of the loss of their lives, all because they believe and trust in a living Christ. THIS NIGHT, there are some who will die for the name of Jesus. Can they all be delusional!?
Is He real? Does He live? Is belief in Him necessary for entrance into His fulfilled Kingdom? I answer all of these with my most resolute yes. I will bank my eternity on the truth of the claims of Jesus to be God, to be the Savior of the World (for those who believe) and to be the King of Peace, who will rule forever.
But what about all those great minds who have spoken against the truth of the resurrection? What about those scholars and scientists who propogate a belief that it's all false?
Those who have tried to discredit Jesus and the resurrection, upon honest examination, have failed. In fact, many of these have become the greatest apologists for the faith they once attacked! A great example is Frank Morrison, who wrote "Who Moved The Stone?", an avowed rationalistic skeptic bent on refuting the resurrection.
"Dr. Frank Morrison, a lawyer who had been brought up in a rationalistic environment, had come to the opinion that the resurrection was nothing but a fairy-tale happy ending which spoiled the matchless story of Jesus. He felt that he owed it to himself and others to write a book that would present the truth about Jesus and dispel the mythical story of the resurrection.
Upon studying the facts, however, he, too, came to a different conclusion. The sheer weight of the evidence compelled him to conclude that Jesus actually did rise from the dead. Morrison wrote his book--but not the one he had planned. It is titled, Who Moved the Stone? The first chapter, very significantly, is, “The Book That Refused to Be Written.” From Bible.org
Greater men than exist today have tried and have failed to stand up to the veracity of the resurrection. Today, the resurrection stands as truth. That was a PERIOD!
I stand therefore, not based solely on my own beliefs and thus my own intelligence. I stand here tonight, not convinced just because I "feel" it. I stand here on the shoulders of men who have come before me, who have lived their lives and died, believing, and thus, banking on the truth of Jesus' claims. I stand here tonight on the shoulders of giants who have looked into the truth of the resurrection and have then bowed the knee to the One that they found, risen and powerful, alive and well!
Tonight, I stand on a faith that is based on reasonable proof and reliable witnesses. Yes, there is an element of faith, but that is true in any belief system. For the athiest and the agnostic, their faith is a rejection of mine, but it is faith nonetheless, without much in the way of reason. I will take my step of faith over theirs ANY DAY OF THE WEEK!!
Tonight, I bow my knee to Jesus Christ, the Author, Finisher and Object of my faith. I trust Him more today than ever before. I implore you to do the same. But if you will not, and if the world wills not, as for me and my house, Jesus will ever be exalted as the Risen King Of Kings and Lord of Lords.
This same Jesus loves YOU, whoever you are. He is real. He is alive. He. Is. God. He died to satisfy God's wrath upon the sin that separates us from Him. For those who trust in Jesus, that penalty is waived and the gift exchange is eternal life with Christ.
If you would,
That's the promise of God. That is the purpose of Christ's resurrection!
Happy Resurrection Weekend!
Blessings...To Our Friends,