Holiday “Doings” at the Buxton’s

A few days before Thanksgiving, I opened the closet in the study where much of our Christmas decorations are stored and began setting out boxes. At ground level of our front deck, I ducked my head, walked under, opened a storage door and pulled out a couple of boxes that hold outdoor lights. Never before Thanksgiving had I festooned our home for Christmas. This was a first–a glorious first. I reasoned (in case someone would complain, which they did not) that last year because of my cancer surgery, my Christmas celebration had been limited. I’d make up for it this year.

What a season it has been.

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Rebecca brought up a lighted bare-limbed tree and felt leaves on which each of us could write down one blessing, and at the table before the sumptuous Thanksgiving meal, we read aloud our thanks. (Imperial Sir Winston knows he is a major treasure in our lives, and thus positioned himself.)

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The weather described perfect winter holidays. Cold, foggy and snowy. Some of us piled into our trusty Jeep and drove the mile or so down to the lake, where Andrew and I braved the cold and ice to take pictures.

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A soup so great that at the end my guests were tipping the huge crockpot to scoop out one more bowl was central to the food we served at our “almost annual” neighborhood party the first Saturday of December. Twenty-six relatives and other friends graced our home.

dsc_5259Among them was this gorgeous baby boy who resides with our new neighbors who live just around the corner on the street that leads to the woods.

dsc_5153            Mrs. Claus dropped by, as did the “real” Santa, another new neighbor, but I didn’t get a good picture of him. You know how sneaky Santa can be sometimes

And . . .wonder of wonders . . .for a few hours before Christmas Day was done, each of my children was here in our home.

Before we opened our gifts that Sunday morning, our patriarch led us in a simple time of worship. He wept as he spoke of the love of God, and for the love of his family. Each of us, except the very youngest, told words of love and blessing. Jerry asked Nate to read from Luke the story of the nativity.

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The gifts were distributed by a very skinny Santa. Gentry is 6’3 and almost 19 years old. These are his legs.

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Our gifts to each other were simple, for we are a simple family, and are old enough and wise enough to understand value and deep joy lie in places other than within the contents of beautiful boxes tied up with elaborate bows.

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Even a couple of greats showed up with their dad, Chris, and because we were out of beds, they joined the others who had stretched out camp bags and quilts, or snagged a couch for sleeping on Christmas night.

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dsc_5441Winston (and us) was blessed to have four of his dog cousins join us for the holidays. He liked some of them; others, sadly, he did not. You’re seeing Charley here, who lives with Andrew and his clan in San Diego.

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During all the holidays, no one had won a game of checkers against Cole. He is the family champ. On the day before they were to leave after Christmas, he challenged me to a game. He had beaten me badly during their Thanksgiving visit. Embarrassing, and I had escaped him . . .until now. Guess what! I beat the little rascal . . . whipped the socks off him. He grinned, and said, “Want to play another one, Granny?”

You must be kidding, I thought. “Nope, I think not,” I very wisely said.

The deed is done. The 2016 holiday season is finished, and we have moved seamlessly into the year of our Lord Twenty Seventeen. None of us know what the days ahead hold. Both joy and sorrow will visit us; success and failure; good days and bad ones; laughter and wretched tears. For us, the extended Gerald Buxton family, we put our trust, our confidence, and our faith in God, in Jesus Christ, the righteous

Blessings to you and yours.

Sixteen Days with Grands–Pre Day 1

Yes! Andrew asked Jerry and me if we would be able and willing to keep three of their children for 16 days while he, Shawnna, and their eldest son, Gentry, vacation in Hawaii. Gentry graduated from high school in the spring, and the trip is his graduation present. I was delighted to say yes!

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On Saturday, we traveled down to San Diego to meet up with Andrew’s family and with our second son, Mike, and his wife, Melina, who were there to celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary. Around 2:00 in the afternoon we all met near the jetty in Mission Beach. Relaxed in the afternoon, did “beachy” things, ate snacks, then just at dusk the men and boys built a great bonfire.

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dsc_4369Ella and her mom on the sands of the great Pacific.

dsc_4401The descent. At the edge . . . then gone. How quickly so. And Brady . . . merely days before, a baby. Now a fledgling young man.

So ended Saturday. On Sunday morning Jerry and I were extremely blessed to be in church with our three sons and some of their families.

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Great barbecue place after church. Loved being with my family. Loved seeing Jerry stand close to our wonderful boys, for through the years it has become almost impossible to get all our four children together at one time. I cherish such rare occasions and consider them precious. (Just sorry Rebecca didn’t make it down.)

At Andrew’s we loaded up Cole, Brady, and Ella, and by 2:30 were on our way to Crestline. We would see their parents in 16 days.

Silence of the Ages

A 44-second stare is a long one; possibly intimidating, uncomfortable, even maddening.image I watched a few days ago as Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, took such a stance before the United Nations. He preceded the stern stare with these words:

Seventy years after the murder of 6 million Jews, Iran’s rulers promised to destroy my country, murder my people; and the response from this body — the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here — has been absolutely nothing,” a defiant Netanyahu said. “Utter silence. Deafening silence.

I admire Mr. Netanyahu. His passionate speeches inspire me. His recent stare, and his words utter silence and deafening silence made an impact on me; on my mind, my emotions, on my soul.

For one day–of a surety the day will come–the eyes of the Almighty will bore into mine, and in that great silence–the silence of the ages–I must give account of my life on this earth.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Revelation 20:12

I cringe when I consider that moment. I shudder to think of the opening of “my book.” The eyes of God will surely be riveted on me. Screaming around me will be the silence of the ages.

Enter twins: Grace and Mercy.

Friends, A Cool Invention

Within each lifetime are portions of challenge. Alongside spiraling days of sunshine made glorious by glowing health and abundant prosperity are chunks of heaviness made dismal by days of inky sorrow and of gloomy prospects. True of everyone. None sidestep the issue. Friends are a cool invention, for wisping along with them, as pleasant as any summer breeze, are bubbly snippets of joy. When they come around, invariably along with them come those magical ingredients that whip up some of the happy, unforgettable days of a well-lived life.

Such a joyful encounter was Jerry’s and mine when our friends Pastor Kris Keyes and his charming wife Lisa of Safford, Az. came a couple of days ago to visit in our home.

Jerry and I planned a fine menu. He cooked ribs and a chicken on his beloved smoker that sets on the back deck and I prepared the rest of the meal. I took pleasure in setting a nice table. 20150515-untitled (1 of 1)I chose red plates, used our finest silverware, and stuck floral napkins through the handle of napkin rings made in the shape of watering pots. Winston hung around our feet

20150512-untitled (4 of 19)Winston shocked us by his immediate, almost hero-worship-style of attraction to both of our friends when they arrived. (They had circled around a bit too long on our mountain roads, so finally Jerry went down to our 7-11 and led them to our driveway.) That little Shih Tzu adored them. On Thursday morning he lay at the door of the guest room where they were sleeping, and made sweet, whiny noises, occasionally poking his nose into the space where the door meets the floor. Quite unusual behavior for Winston, as in the past he has generally been hesitant to meet new people, and has not been overly friendly to them.

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20150514-untitled (7 of 19)Stormy weather moved in with plunging temperatures, high winds, and pelting rain that snapped against our windows and doors. It was perfect weather for a long and cozy visit with our friends. We ate the high-calorie food Jerry and I had prepared, lingered at the table, and drank barrels of coffee (well, not quite barrels, but big jugs full.) Jerry kept the fireplace roaring. We talked. And talked.

Kris Keyes is the pastor of an Apostolic church in Safford, AZ. and much of our conversation centered around mutual friends and church activities. Politics, grill types, smoking methods, scriptures and their meanings, recipes, books we’ve read, hiking, and snippets of internet gleanings were among the subjects that filled in the spaces. On their computer, they showed us the pictures of their daughter Sarah’s recent wedding.

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We moved to the study where Jerry riffled through his grill book so that he could print off a copy of his brining recipe. . . and we began saying our good-byes.

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Our society has changed drastically since I was a child; many of the changes are positive ones, making for longer, healthier, more prosperous lives. Some changes , though, fall into the negative heap. One of these is our busyness; bolting through day after seething day, racing to another meeting, grabbing our phones for another can’t-be-missed conversation. Flip open our laptops, for surely people await to read every word that skids through our hot brains, read the news, despair, and occasionally rejoice. Make more money. Buy a newer car, a bigger house, a prettier dress. . .

And seldom do we sit. Sit for long periods. With a friend. With our family. No agenda. No rush. Sit. Talk. Share hearts. (Takes a while to share a heart.) Be quiet. Commune.

Guilty . . .I confess.

During the recent elegant hours Jerry and I spent with these friends I was so touched at one point as we discussed some great spiritual happenings during our  lifetimes, Kris looked toward his wife and said, “I want that. I want that for our church.” Such conversations do not evolve quickly, nor through casual talk, nor through hurried, breakneck-speed words.

I have few answers to the dilemma of our frazzled, rushed society, but I do suggest that much peace and restfulness will likely come about when we ask friends into our homes. When we appeal to our families for time. Just time. Days perhaps. When they come and stay awhile, when we talk and listen. We hear. Our hearts pulse together.

Reflections on Mother’s Day 2015

The days leading up to Mother’s Day had found me the recipient of flower deliveries, cards, phone calls, and gifts. On Saturday Jerry said he needed to go somewhere, and when he returned he had in his hands a small azalea plant of the most pleasant pink hue, along with a very touching card. No doubt one of the reasons my children are so good to honor me is because their dad set the bar high throughout their growing-up years. Thoughtful. Never misses an anniversary, and sometimes for no reason, he may pop out into the yard and bring in a rose he has snipped from one of our plants.

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None of the children were able to actually visit in our home for the special day, but we had made plans with Rebecca. Sunday morning we drove by her house, dropped off Winston, then drove on to Inland Lighthouse Center in Rialto where with her we worshipped. Before we entered the sanctuary, though, Jerry snapped a few pictures of the two mommies!

20150510-untitled (7 of 43)The greeting of many friends always makes it such a pleasure to visit the church that Jerry formerly pastored. Multitudes of glorious memories. A great church.

After the service as we continued to visit, Rebecca hurried home to finish preparing our meal.

20150510-untitled (20 of 43)She had set a beautiful table with her fine platinum rimmed china. A pasta/sausage dish was the entree, the salad was fresh and delicious, and. . .and. . .these scrumptious cheese biscuits. I watched her scoop out the dough and stick them in the oven. I probably shouldn’t confess, but I ate two of them, and they weren’t small!

20150510-untitled (24 of 43)More gifts, sweet talk, lingering.

20150510-untitled (38 of 43)Rebecca let us read the hilarious card Nathaniel had given her. We watched on his phone a video of his preaching a few nights before at Bakersfield. So very exciting.

20150510-untitled (14 of 43)Treats drawn from his pockets sent the dogs running to Master.

20150511-untitled (4 of 4)Back home. Early evening. I gathered my gifts and cards, pulled out a dining chair, sat down, looked at them, and reread them. I thought of each of my three sons, and of my one daughter. I recalled their births, their childhoods, their escapades, their accomplishments, their disappointments, their strengths, their challenges. I wept for love.

Leash

20150219-untitled (35 of 45)Usually I walk Winston along our street, sometimes going into the woods that is a part of Thousand Pines Christian Conference Center here in Crestline. Yesterday, though, I put him in the car and drove the mile or so down to Lake Gregory, where, in an area near the San Moritz Lodge, we accomplished our morning walk.While he nudged small stones, and snuffled around fallen leaves, trying to sniff out at least one of the myriad animals who prowl about the area, I reveled in the day. Getting on toward the end of February, the weather should be described as storms of snow and rain; instead we’re having Spring, and although I’m wanting the cold weather, I’ve decided (since I can do nothing about the amount of heat or cold that stacks up about me) to enjoy these gorgeous days, and to avoid too much whine about the other stuff.

Winston walks on a leash. A leash that I control. I snap it on him, and take it off him. I’m in charge of Winston, and I tell him where we’re headed, when to go, and when to stop. Sometimes he obeys me. Others times not. Sometimes he doesn’t want to come for the leash and he’ll dance around, and tease, but before we head out for the walk, he is securely tethered by his leash–the leash that is in my hand.

20150218-untitled (2 of 45)I  wear a leash too. Despite, though, how closely you look about my neck or how thoroughly you peer about my shoulders, you will not see my harness. It is invisible, rests easily about me, yet is highly effective. I’ve worn my leash a long time now, and should it slip away, should it be lost, I would suffer. My leash is of The Spirit. My leash is the Holy Ghost. I cherish this restraint, for it guides me through this very treacherous life, along roadways littered with stumbling stones, through neighborhoods of evil report.

With David, I cry:

Prepare my goings in your paths and do not let  evil rule over me. Psalm 119:133 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

And to my Savior, I lift my hands, and extend my body for the leash for He has said:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go. Psalm 32:8

20150218-untitled (3 of 45)We care deeply for Winston, we provide for him, we pamper him. Despite being the smart little rascal he is, without us he would lose his way. One day he would frolic away to the camp or to the lake, not remembering the coyotes that prowl our woods and our streets, nor the occasional huge cat who might very well rest in the limb above his furry little head.

20150219-untitled (40 of 45)Sometimes he’s in danger and has no sense of it at all.

And so Winston wears a leash, as do I. For sometimes I’m in danger, sometimes I head toward the wrong path, sometimes ungodly creatures lie in wait for me, but I’m safe, for I yield to the leash.

My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. Psalm 17:5

Nah.

“Like your shirt,” Andrew said to the gentleman who had entered the restaurant after we had been seated. It was Sunday after a great morning worship service. We were down in San Diego with Andrew and his clan.

20150215-untitled (23 of 28)We all liked it; at least the adults did, and for the youngsters who20150215-untitled (24 of 28) didn’t know the story it was a perfect teaching moment.

“We have the advantage of history, know how the story ended, but Rosa did not that day.” I added to the conversation as the gentleman sat down near us.

A friendly gentleman,after we had discussed the Rosa Parks story for a bit, our conversation turned to church things, and he told us where he had attended that morning, and we related that we had been to a chur20150215-untitled (25 of 28)ch just across the way. Andrew rose from his seat to point through the window where the church was visible. We invited him to visit, told him he would like it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he visits The Anchor one day.

After he left us, we continued to discuss the Rosa Parks story, and someone said: “Make a good sermon.”

And so it would . . . or just a simple little piece of writing.

One day Rosa Parks had endured enough, and when that bus driver told her to get up and give her seat to a white person, she refused. Yes, she refused. She was arrested. Still she did not retract her stance.

Nah. Rosa Parks 1955

There comes a time for each of us to speak directly to satan.

Nah, don’t think so. Not today.

He has bound us long enough, lied to us, refused to let us have the freedom that should be ours. He is despicable. Evil. No good thing comes from him. He is a foul, grubbing master who lies, deceives, defrauds and tricks. The very air about him is putrid. His breath is rancid, his intent of hell itself.

We often hear the scripture quoted “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The reference is James 4:7 and it actually reads, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Resist. My research tells me the word resist here is from the Greek word anthistemi, which means to “take a complete stand against”or a “contrary position”and “refusing to be moved.”

I’m determined to take a contrary position to satan, to look him square in the eye when he approaches me and adamantly refuse to follow him. James, though, emphasizes that the only effective way to do this is to submit myself to God. I must learn of Him, understand His ways, and walk carefully and diligently with Him.

Madly, our world careens out of control. The scent of destruction fills our nostrils as the sound of battle plugs our ears. The sight of chaos shadows our eyes as surely as does a blind drawn against a cold midnight. We are in desperate need of God. Help us to have the courage and the spiritual insight to resist satan as he leers our way. Help us to say No.

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And to you, the very nice man in San Diego who wore the Rosa Parks shirt, whom I may never see again, thank you. Thank you for the reminder.

Celebration With The Anchor

The phone call had come from Mary Williams of Apostolic College in Tulsa, where Jerry and I had met. “Would you be interested in going to California to teach in a church school in Pasadena?” So began a major move for us; in California all our children would be born, Jerry would pastor two churches here, and our lives for the most part would be lived out in this beautiful state . . .where we yet live. 20150215-untitled (1 of 28) Jerry’s sister Sophia lived in San Diego at the time, so one of the first churches we visited, and where we attended for a short while just before Michael was born, was Revival Tabernacle, pastored then by the inimitable David F. Gray. This past weekend the church, now called The Anchor, commerated both their 70th year since the founding by Brother Gray, and their 50 years at their current location. Jerry and I drove down and thoroughly enjoyed the Sunday morning celebration with this fine group of people. Revival Tabernacle/The Anchor is one of the more influential Apostolic Churches on the West Coast, with a long history of sending out ministers to found additional churches in the area, and in other parts of the United States, even to other parts of the world. 20150215-untitled (10 of 28)A tribute both to the congregation and to the leaders is that in this long history only two pastors have served these people. James Larson, who served under Brother Gray before assuming the pastorate is a talented, precious minister of the Gospel. His humble and chariasmatic way befits this high office. He is a man of prayer and of The Word. 20150215-untitled (5 of 28)Chris Higginbottom is the vibrant music director who enhances The Anchor by his talent, his passion for his job, and his faithfulness. 20150215-untitled (9 of 28)   Iris Bisbal is 79 years old, and is among the group of faithful “old-timers” who have attended Revival Tabernacle/The Anchor since its early days. On Sunday morning, with a strong, still magnificent voice, she sang the glory down. Amazing woman of God. 20150215-untitled (3 of 28)Among the several guest ministers who attended the Sunday morning service were Carl McKellar and Bernard Elms, who each delivered timely messages. Both these men attended Revival Tabernacle as youngsters.20150215-untitled (20 of 28) Of particular interest to me is this shot of my son Andrew, who along with other ministers was called on to speak a few words during the morning service. His father sits on the platform, an elder minister now, Brother Larson stands in the pulpit, and behind all is a projected image of Brother and Sister Gray, along with Brother and Sister Larson taken at the time the mantle was passed from Brother Gray to Brother Larson. 20150215-untitled (19 of 28) The future? What does it hold for those younger ones coming behind? 20150215-untitled (17 of 28)I’m convinced that the solid foundation on which Revival Tabernacle/The Anchor is built, along with the calibre of its leaders, elders and younger ministers, insures that this church will continue to move upward. God’s Church is not pallid, crippled, or lifeless; rather His Church is vigorous. His Church thrives. Congratulation to Pastor Larson and the entire congregation of The Anchor on such a stellar history. My prayers and support are with you.

Of Christmas Past

On my Facebook site a few days before Christmas, I posted the following:

Year by year it became increasingly obvious that it was easy for some of our family to gift each other lavishly. Year by year it became increasingly obvious that to exchange gifts with their siblings and ever-increasing number of nieces and nephews was financially straining for others. Year by year all of us concluded that Christmas had become too mercenary, and that despite our words to the contrary, the season had become centered more and more on gifts, rather than on the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Last year, to contribute to alleviating the situation, we began a tradition that I believe helps us to celebrate Christmas as it really should be done. We continue this year. We have agreed to limit gifts among Jerry and me and our children, the siblings, their spouses, and their children to: handmade items, something we already possess, a purchase from a thrift or a 99 cent type store. It’s a challenge, satisfying, and lots of fun.

Today I want to show you a present I received; absolutely wonderful, but well within the rules of the “game.”

20150116-untitled (4 of 10)This was from Andrew and Shawnna, an oil painting on canvass they had bought some time back at a thrift store. It is stunning, the streaming light from the buildings and the streets remarkable; truly made me catch my breath when I first saw it. The painting is large, and I had a difficult time deciding on a place to hang it, but finally chose this spot in our study that leads to the back deck.

20150116-untitled (5 of 10)20150116-untitled (7 of 10)Attached to the painting when they bought it for $10.00 or so, was this paper that indicates the previous owner had purchased the piece in 1972 and had paid $145.00 for it. The name Beltrane is noted–not sure if that is the artist’s name or the buyer–rather suspect it to be the name of the buyer.

20150117-untitled (9 of 10)We will continue with our gift exchanges in this way, for it has proved to be successful, and I believe helps us to focus on Christmas as should be done. The process calls for thoughtfulness and planning. To Andrew I gave a set of DVDs from Because of the Times 2011, which I had watched numerous times. That cost me nothing, and I believe will be a real blessing to Andrew.

Life consists of so much more than frantic shopping, long check-off lists, cards sent because “they sent us one,” maxed-out credit cards that take ’til July to pay off . . .all that kind of thing. Rather, throughout the year we should insist on time to really live, to think on Jesus, on our loved ones, to truly remember the “reason for the season.” What say you?

Honoring My Preachers

October has been designated Clergy Appreciation Month. While, of course, we should appreciate our pastors and other ministers at all times, and frequently tell them we do, it is admirable that a particular time has been set aside to especially honor these people.

Two have been most influential in my life: My husband and my father.

20141030-untitled (1 of 1)Farrell E. Forrest, pictured here on his 80th birthday, was a dynamic preacher of the Gospel who loved the Word and who studied it at length. He baptized me in Jesus name, and from my earliest days taught me the ways of God. How thankful I am, how very thankful . . .He’s in Heaven tonight.

20141031-untitled (14 of 14)I looked across the room a few minutes ago where my husband is sitting in his favorite lounge chair and remembered how grateful I am for his ministry, for his spiritual guiding of me through most of my adult years, and for his godly ways. To love God with all their hearts and to put God first in their lives were dynamic lessons Jerry taught our four children. I honor him for all the sacrifices he has made for the Kingdom of God. I honor him for his consistency, his strength, his loyalty. I honor him for every prayer he has prayed, every sermon he has preached, every saint he has tended, every tear he has shed, every sacrificial dollar he has given, every long hour of counseling in which he engaged, and every song he sang with his magnificent voice.

I know he’s really a Christian for I live with him, and although he no longer is active in the ministry every week, I know that’s where his heart is. When one of his sons said, “You’ll always be my pastor, Dad,” it touched him deeply, for that is who he is. His heart is that of a caring man, a pastor, a minister. Within the last few days he made arrangements to drive hundreds of miles to insure that one of his elderly friends will have a happy Thanksgiving. Appreciate? How could I not?

Scores of preachers have significantly influenced my life, and while I will not name any, I truly am thankful. Thank you for preaching to me, to my husband, to my children, to my grandchildren. You mean a lot to me, you who now pastor my children and grandchildren. You who give counsel.

Clergy Appreciation Month: How grateful I am.