For Memorial

Three of my four children, along with some of their families, came to our home–Jerry’s and mine–during the Memorial Day Weekend. We had a fabulous time.

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On Friday afternoon Andrew and his clan fought such traffic from San Diego that the typical two-hour or so drive took more than four. Rebecca, Nathaniel, Michael, and Melina made it in on Saturday. Jerry had smoked a turkey on Thursday–best turkey I ever tasted–then on Saturday spent most of the day tending his smoker and grill so that when we sat down for our evening meal we were treated to exceptional ribs and juicy steaks. The kids brought food, Jerry tended the grill, and I cooked some things. We feasted.

But the best part was not the steaks, nor–to be honest– the flags, neither the bunting, or the chocolate cake or Bek’s special oatmeal cookies. The best part was time. There was time to reflect and talk about the meaning of the flags and of Memorial Day itself. Our children gave us, and each other, the gift of time. Time to talk, to laugh, to reminisce. Time to speak of plans, of failures, of successes, of God, of our babies growing now into adults, of death of parents and other loved ones . . .of life.

DSC_7161Those who follow my blog know I am an amateur photographer, although pretty serious about it. However, in these family gatherings at my home I get so caught up in other things that I take very few pictures, then later I’m sad at the dearth of images that are mine. Andrew snapped this one of Mike and me a short while before Mike and Melina left . . .

DSC_7175. . .and on the front deck I preserved this image of Andrew and Shauna. Little more.

Time included us piling into cars and plying the roads, streets and lanes of Crestline and its neighbors for the annual Memorial Day Mountain-Wide Garage Sales. We all scored.

DSC_7247 This antique game bird collectors plate is Bavarian, and is one of five I bought for the grand price of $3.00. Not each. For all! (Told you we scored.) Along the side of the road as we meandered about was a box with free items in it. I was riding with Gentry when I wondered what it might be.

“Do you want it, Granny?”

“Yes.”

Brady jumped out, and popped the box and its contents into the trunk beside our other treasures. Turned out to be a George Foreman large grill with interchangeable plates–about $100.00 new someone said when they checked the internet . . .and so we had waffles from our found treasure. Had waffles on Sunday evening, and they were so delicious we ate such fare again on Monday morning before everyone left.

The highlight of the weekend was Sunday morning when three Buxton families worshipped at a nearby church. As we stood together in the altar area near the end of the service, I was happy for this time, for this Memorial Day weekend.  Thankful.

At the lodge by the lake, by myself on Monday morning at 11:00 I attended a service honoring those who have fallen, who have given their lives. Stories wafted through the air, as did films, and other presentations. Veterans marched with guns, flags were posted and presented. Tears glistened in the eyes of a hundred or so people as we watched and as we listened. We stood and sang God Bless America, then the poignant, unmatchable tones of Taps sounded through the room, and the time was over.

DSC_7213I walked a short distance on Lake Gregory shoreline yesterday, and as I rounded a corner near this log, I saw two turtles. One of them eyed me, so I sat down on a likely spot and communed with the critters for 20 minutes or so. They move slowly, do turtles, deliberately and with no appearance of haste. They have time. So did I.

AUW Compound in Nairobi, Kenya

Here in the United States before our trip to Africa I had only briefly met both Pamela and Bishop Ngota Aston, but I certainly came to know them better during those days we stayed on their church compound, and to admire their ambition, their godly ways, and their accomplishments. I salute them today.

DSC_6557If I understand correctly, it was through his burden that he met with Apostolic leaders across Africa, and that in 2014 the Apostolic Union of the World was founded. He became the leader of the organization whose purpose is to facilitate evangelizing Africa with the Apostolic message. The conference we attended was the third such meeting.

DSC_6573His wife is beautiful, hospitable, a great speaker, singer, and musician. She was reared in a very challenging environment, but by the grace of God has risen from its depth to a place of prominence in Africa, and has attained an excellent education.

The compound is impressive. I was stunned to learn that they have only been in that location for seven years. It is completely fenced, boasting numerous structures with a 24-hour guard at the gate. Encompassed in the wide acreage are the sanctuary, the building I have mentioned in which we stayed, school facilities, and a few other out-buildings. Monies from outside Africa have been supplied and appreciated, but I noted in some of their material that one of their goals is less reliance on foreign aid; instead the development of financial independence

DSC_6175DSC_6556Both the impressive grounds and the buildings are kept in pristine condition. Workers were painting just hours before the beginning days of the conference.

DSC_6582I do not have the exact number of persons who attended the conference, but I suspect the final count to have exceeded 500. Most of these were ministers and their families, including some who had traveled as many as four days to arrive there. Several countries were represented. Although the provisions were simple, it astonished me that every delegate was accommodated on the premises. Outhouses were utilized and hundreds slept on mats on the ground. The food was cooked outside a small room on charcoal cookers; the dishes washed nearby with the assistance of a lone faucet. I highly respect my brothers and sisters in Jesus I met those few days in Kenya. Some of them, I was told, do not have enough food, and some are actively persecuted because they are Christians.

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I posted the following words on my Facebook account a few days after the conference ended. Those were my sentiments then . . .as they are now.

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I am raw. Lying open in the sun raw. The conference in Nairobi has ended. Forever in my ears will ring the words–Africa Must Be Saved–as I recall the hundreds of black people who swayed to the burden of their song, who fell mourning to the floor, who wept over the millions who are lost in the hills, the jungles, the cities of their beautiful continent. ……….I will never forget the mama of this beautiful baby who sat in the dirt long side a muddy road and nursed her darling child beside the table where she sold bananas and watermelons and corn . . .I will never forget leaders who taught their women not to be bitter as they asked God to give them food for their children. . . I am raw. Lying open in the sun raw.

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.

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.

Challenge to Republicans and to Christians

Similarities exist between political parties and church denominations: A close look at that knowledge might serve as a magnifying glass to assess the effectiveness of either organism.(Hang with me, here. Need to lay some groundwork 🙂 )

Since the election, much discussion has centered around the future of the Republican party, with some predicting its demise, while others say we just need to regroup and reignite ourselves. There seems to be no dispute that not only have the demographics in America changed, but the social conventions and mores are distinctly different from those of 50 years ago–or either 20 years ago for that matter. So, then, if the Republican party is to survive as a conservative body and if we hope to ever again elect a president, should we not change our stance? Should we not accommodate those who want to legalize abortions, those who want to say that marriage no longer needs to be between one man and one woman, those who want increased government involvement in our lives . . . and on and on? You know the issues.

Similar challenges face the church. If we are to grow then, should we not accommodate revised values and declining morals? Should we not lower our standards so as to entice people to fill our auditoriums–to vote for us, if you will?

I say no. We should not change. Never. (Don’t get silly on me here. I’m not talking about refusing to use cars, computers, telephones, or airplanes. I’m speaking to changes in morality, modesty, and integrity.)  If we do change, the Republican party will be gone, morphed into something else: If we do change, our church “denomination” will be gone, morphed into something else. The answer? We must help people understand our beliefs and our value system. We must somehow find a way to let them know the advantage there is in living upright, with Judeo/Christian principles in place.

Within the book I finished writing a couple of weeks ago, the protagonist, Abram, speaks to a church board where he has been called to account for his frank preaching:

“Truth is the great examiner.” Every eye was directed to Abram as he continued. “Truth is the inquisitor that recognizes no rank, and that considers neither race, gender, age, nor intent in its expose. Truth advances into a hospital room and announces a grim report, or laughs with another who tells of dodging the cancer. Truth points a finger at David and declares, ‘Thou art the man.’” Silence roared in the fine room.

Abram returned to his assigned place. He stood, as he continued, his voice softer now as he appealed to his colleagues. “Brethren, let us remind ourselves that of he who markets in truth is demanded the highest accountability.

So, those of us who call ourselves Christian and those of us who call ourselves Republican, let us examine ourselves and our principles. Let us be sure of them. Then let us find effective ways to present our message as being truth and the hope of the world.

Leadership Seminar at Big Bear

A blessing from God is that even though we are no longer full-time in the ministry, many people invite us to be a part of their churches and of their activities. It delights both Jerry and me for it lets us continue to give from the abundance of blessings that over the course of our lives we have received. For although we are much older now, God and His Work continue to be the center of our lives, and we are most fulfilled when we are engaged in His business.

Recently, Jerry was asked to teach a session during the Garrett’s leadership retreat, so on Saturday morning we drove to Big Bear Lake–actually to the YMCA camp in Fawnskin–where those dear people had included us in their schedule. We ate breakfast and lunch with their group, attended a couple of sessions, and walked about the magnificent grounds.

Brother and Sister Garrett assumed the pastorate of The Lighthouse Pentecostal church about three years ago. Building on what other men of God before them had established, they have, through hard work and spiritual dedication, made significant progress toward building a great church in Yucaipa. They may be embarrassed when they see this, but I want you to look at a couple of images I snapped during Saturday’s seminar. You are seeing examples that speak to godly leadership and to subsequent church growth–both in spiritual and material senses.

They are amazing people, and my heart rests easy when I think of them and others of their caliber in whose hands–under God–resides the future of the Apostolic Church in the earth.

(Many more pictures of this event on my Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shirleyb/sets/72157631772205739/

30th Pastoral Anniversary Part 2

The 30th pastoral anniversary of Bro. Gordon Richardson in Manteca was excellent in every way.

Bro. Berl Stevenson of El Cajon, CA., former pastor of Bro. Richardson, spoke on both Saturday and Sunday.

Bro. Gerald Buxton of Crestline, CA. was the preacher on Sunday morning. When Brother Richardson was a teenager, for a short time Brother Buxton was his Sunday school teacher. Hmm…hope he’s doesn’t tell too many stories, I’m sure Brother Richardson was thinking.

Friends! Stevensons, Buxtons, and Richardsons after Sunday morning service.

Sunday evening, Brother Don O’Keefe of Antioch, CA. was the preacher.

The pastor’s wives all spoke briefly on Sunday night. First was Lavelta Stevenson. (On Saturday afternoon, there were many more ministers and minister’s wives at that service.)

Next was Abigail O’Keefe.

Sandi Richardson was last, giving beautiful words of honor to all ministers present, and especially to her husband.

Again, I offer my congratulations to this wonderful couple who have done a tremendous job of building a church in Manteca.

Pastor Gordon Richardson 30th Pastoral Anniversary

Congratulations to my friends the Richardsons who this weekend are celebrating 30 years of pastoring here in Manteca, CA. Yesterday’s afternoon service was splendid. A great number of ministers came to join in the celebration.

In addition to other things, their church presented them with an Alaskan cruise.

Tremendous preaching by Pastor Curtis Young.

Beautiful singing by Rev. Garza: Thank You for Giving to the Lord.

Nothing much better than friends praying for each other.

Services continue today: 10:00 this morning 7:00 this evening.

Sunday in Yuma (Day 11 Summer Roadtrip 2012)

Church on Sunday at Yuma’s Pentecostal Assembly. Jerry preached in the morning, Pastor Jerry Rowell in the evening. The presence of the Lord was dear, and often through the day I thought of and read this scripture:

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4