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.

Of Buddy

A text message alerted me to call Rebecca. I called.

She asked. “We’re putting Buddy down tomorrow. Can we come up and have you take pictures?”

Buddy is one boy’s dog. Has been since Buddy was rescued from an animal shelter and presented to Nathaniel when he was in the 4th grade. Nathaniel who is now a man. Nathaniel who graduated from high school last year, Nathaniel who takes college courses now, and who works as a roofer. Buddy is a black dog, nine years old (they think). Buddy is sweet. Has kidney failure. He’s big, and can be scary.

Buddy is one family’s dog. Truthfully, since Nathaniel has reached his manhood and taken on such responsibility, much of the care of Buddy has fallen to Rebecca, my daughter, Nathaniel’s mother. We’re all lovers of animals, and both Jerry and I were attached to Buddy.

“Sure, all of you come on up,” I told Rebecca.

I did not take a picture of Buddy wearing a diaper, for it seemed demeaning to that beautiful animal. Blood and urine and pain. Nathaniel would dig a grave . . .in their back yard.DSC_3376We talked. All of us spoke of grief and love and attachment.

“It’s worth it though, Granny,” Nathaniel said once. “The fun, the love, the good times I’ve had with Buddy makes this time of sorrow worth it.”

Rebecca sent me pictures of the grave and of Buddy’s body. Jerry said, “I don’t want to see them.”

I cried . . .as have we all.

 

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A Moment of Thanks

Reluctantly I pulled the word from that dark place where it lives, for certainly I must examine its aspect and its whole being, knowing it was unwise–indeed impossible–to ignore what the doctor had spoken to me: “Mrs. Buxton, you may have cancer.”

I recall those moments in that cold ultrasound examining room (where I shivered so much until they gave me a warm blanket), and remembered when Dr. Mikhail spoke that sentence I did not feel overly anxious, nor did I have a sense of fear. I was calm as he pointed to the screen that showed multicolored wavy lines, and when he indicated the places of concern. In two weeks I would check into the Ontario Outpatient Surgical Center for a biopsy. “I don’t believe for sure it is cancer, but it could be,” he had finally said.

I told my husband and my four children that more testing was required, and although they probably sensed it was serious, I didn’t use the word cancer. I did ask one of my sons to be with Jerry while I was in surgery, knowing it would be a blow if the surgeon came out with a devastating report.

The Sunday before the procedure we attended church at Brother Claborn’s in San Bernardino. His sermon astonished me, and reminded me again how personal God is, and how He truly and absolutely keeps track of us, His children. He is divine, and this life we live is supernatural, unexplainable, definitely of another world. No doubt others in the congregation were ministered to that Sunday morning, but had I been the only one in the building, not one word would have been wasted, not one word would have been extraneous: instead the words flew as shot arrows to minister to those vulnerable places in my being, my heart, my soul, my emotions. During the altar service I whispered to Brother Claborn that I would have a procedure the next day for which I needed prayer. He laid hands on me and prayed.

The routine: Nothing by mouth after midnight, charming hospital gown, cute little paper hat, IV started, sweet nurses, visit by the surgeon, visit by the anesthesiologist, questions, answers . . . waiting. Finally they let Jerry and Andrew come where I was, and once I said to the nurse, “My husband and son will be praying for me before I go to surgery. Would you like to join us?” She smiled, and as we prayed she also did. “This opportunity has made my day,” she said to me. “Thank you.”

“Here’s your cocktail.” The friendly nurse grinned as she fed another medication into my system, and quickly I became woozy and hardly remember the gurney ride to the OR.

The procedure lasted about 20 minutes. The surgeon’s eyes were full of hope and his words were positive as he spoke to my husband and to Andrew. “I don’t believe there is cancer at all. We’ll know for sure when we receive the biopsy reports.

A few days ago I sat in one of those little rooms and watched the door open as Dr. Mikhail came in. He carried a sheaf of papers in his hand, later telling me they were my copies. “All benign, Mrs. Buxton. We biopsied three places. All benign.” He smiled. I smiled. We shook hands.

Today, I give thanks.

 

 

A Caring Lesson from Winston

I knew from the beginning Sir Winston of Crestline was a very special pup, but I had no idea he would be called into the ministry . . . First clue came when I found him with these in his mouth.

ImageHe has chosen the bottom shelf of a bookcase covered wall as his daytime den and sleeping place. The shelf is positioned beside a large chair I sit in when I’m working at the computer and had a few books on it with a large vacant area. He just took over. I moved the books so he has the whole shelf to himself . . . otherwise there would be no books left. He’s very studious it seems, and besides that he’s teething.

ImageHe conquered the four cement steps from the driveway yesterday and today. He was hesitating to come down, but I encouraged him, and here he came but on the last step got to going so fast he tumbled over and bonked his little head.

I’m eager for his vet appointment on Monday when he will receive his first puppy shots, for he’s at a high risk now for lots of things, and the nurse in the doctor’s office advised me to keep him in at our house. But we go so much . . .and when we went to a funeral last week, Rebecca “baby” sat him, and of course Winston met his cousin, whose name is Sir Maxwell. (Another titled, rather important dog!) Maxwell is a Snauser.

untitled (9 of 56)…and he’s met and played with Sarah who lives across the street. Sarah bounds up our driveway with Winston chasing right after her, his short legs chugging like a locomotive. He tires easily when he does that, though, and will plop down right in the street. (We live on a cul-de-sac with almost no traffic.)

untitled (21 of 56)Winston is fearless.

untitled (22 of 56)Our delightful neighbor Bill lives next door. He walks into the woods every day, blows snow off his sidewalks on blizzardy days, is sharp-witted, as friendly as can be, and is 91 years old. Last week from our back deck, I lifted up Sir Winston and showed him to Bill who was out in his yard. He grinned . . . then yesterday came into our yard and down the steps to meet his newest neighbor who was frolicking with his master.

untitled (15 of 56)He bent over then, and lifted up the tiny pup.

untitled (18 of 56)I didn’t notice the lesson as I snapped the picture, but as I processed it and saw Bill’s feet and his hands grasping my little pup, the understanding of the helplessness of Winston and to some extent the neediness of Bill occurred to me. Winston taught me another lesson, that of caring for those who have difficulty caring for themselves. Last week Bill hired a young boy to rake up leaves and acorns, and by the time he was finished he had more than a dozen large, black bags full of debris. Today was the day the huge trash trucks would come on our street. Led by the charge of my caring husband, a few men of the neighborhood grabbed up those bulky, heavy bags and set them out for Bill. Too many for the collectors to take, so Jerry put some bags with our trash, Ken put some with his, Mary some with hers, as did also Kerry.

A nation–a people–are known by the care they give to those who cannot care for themselves.

Winston adds his greetings.

A Thousand Pieces Anniversary

At the recent camp meeting in Santa Maria, (which by the way was off the charts in excellence,) a lady came to me wanting an autograph of my book on backsliding, The Bitter Bite of Beelzebub, which she had purchased from the Pentecostal Publishing House booth at the camp meeting.

“Do you have more books,” she asked. I told her I have written three other ones, but was not sure if they were available at the camp meeting display area. Others have asked, so I’m taking this opportunity to give you a link to my site where you may order any of my books.

It so happens that today, August 6, 2013, is the 19th anniversary of the event that led to the writing of my first book, A Thousand Pieces. That book is in its 4th printing and has proven to be a faith-builder of rare effect. A quick summary is that my husband Jerry was struck by a truck driven by a drunk driver as he stood by our disabled car. He was knocked 86 feet through the air and landed in the street, dead. A lady revived him, but he had almost unbelievable injuries including a broken neck, bleeding into his brain stem, compressed spinal cord, bruised kidneys, bruised heart, punctured lung, broken hip . . .and more. He was paralyzed, only able to move his toes and a couple of fingers. He spent five months in the hospital, but through the mercy and healing power of God, coupled with excellent medical care–if you saw him today, you would never know anything had happened to him. Many people refer to him as a walking miracle.

It’s all in the book, A Thousand Pieces, whose opening lines are:

Screaming brakes slashed the afternoon air. Tortured wheels whined at high pitch digging into the hot pavement as the truck careened crazily, strewing debris in its path.

Closing lines:

Life beats us all. Mysterious and vaporous in creation, a new being spurts forth, its plump flesh rosy, gushing with Adam’s juice. The quick intake of breath and the sharp wail are but the front edge of a grim continuum. Invisible yet, the deadly claws have revealed their tooth, for insidious and relentless, they work their scheme of death and decay. For now, though, Jerry and I had escaped. Just ahead of the whirlwind, we had danced a frantic cotillion, swinging always toward the passage of life and avoiding that of death and its greed.

That it was done with grace, let it be said.

We are forever grateful.

Mall Trip with Three Teenagers

The continuing saga of the teenage grandchildren’s visit took in a visit to Ontario Mills on Monday, a place that is touted as the largest single-story mall in the Western United States. It consists of a huge food court and 200 stores that cover 1,473,000 square feet! Right, you read that right: One million, four hundred and seventy-three thousand square feet! . . .Feet?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Did you say feet?

Maybe I should not have done this, but I had a terrible time restraining myself when we passed by this set of massage chairs. Later, as my own legs were yelping, I wished I could find these people and apologize–well, actually I wanted them to scoot over and share their place.

untitled (17 of 52)Before we actually entered the mall, just across the street, we took a quick duck into Tai Pan Trading. The boys weren’t too excited about prowling about a gigantic home decoration store, but they did fine, I believe, in entertaining themselves.

“Twenty minutes, that’s what we’re giving you, Granny,” Nathaniel ordered, and Gentry agreed.

untitled (4 of 52)untitled (5 of 52)untitled (7 of 52)

untitled (10 of 52)We shopped . . . and shopped . . . each trying to find the outfit they wanted, that fit, that was in Granny’s budget.

untitled (18 of 52)They laughed at belts that would almost reach around Gentry twice. Along the way we had picked up a couple of honorary grand-youngin’s that Patrick and Holly had dropped off.

untitled (45 of 52)Finally, many hours later, each of them had treasures in their hands, and we headed for the exit.

untitled (34 of 52)But one more thing: Those sweet youngsters gathered about me in that huge mall and as Rebecca operated the camera, they gave me a group hug! Love it!

Trekked all of them up to our home in Crestline, where we all fell out of the car totally exhausted. Even the youngsters complained of sore legs.

We prowled about the kitchen for food. The boys opened the Balderdash box and soon uproarious laughter came from the dining room. Pictures that will make you laugh are here.

Escape

Of course, there is no one whose life is perfect. There are no people whom with ease reach all their goals without bumping against obstacles and without kicking over barriers that try to snag them and to hinder them from the success that should be theirs. It may appear that some persons stroll about with glitter raining down on them and with golden rings easily within their grasp. But such is not the case. Anyone who is a success has worked at attaining that place, and although we may not see their struggle, rather see only the accomplishments, the smiles, and the accolades, be assured that difficulties have been a part of that life.

There are others, though, whose conflicts and wars are of such a nature that we see the negative results that pound about their heads. We see their violent storms–be they physical or spiritual–be they in some ways spawned by the very person upon whom the whirlwind blows, or not. We observe, and if we are close, and if we care enough to untitled (3 of 6)suffer, we nudge beside them and the hail pelts about our shoulders, and we feel the cold rain, and in our ears we take the crack of their black thunder. And we whisper or shout, “You can do it, You can make it, Keep going,” and sometimes they hear us and turn their drenched head our way and a fraction of a smile may be there, but sometimes the gale is of such violence they cannot even hear us, but heads bent into the wind, they keep trudging.

I’ve seen such people emerge from hurricanes that nearly took them out, and although I rejoice with my friends and family members who are successful–a new song recorded, growing business, another book published, a church that thrives, invitations to speak all over the world . . .it is with those who barely escaped that I take most joy. I know one or two. You know who you are. I salute you.

And there are others. I don’t know you, but you’ve had a storm . . . and you escaped. Congratulations!

First Draft Tears

“On your blog, why don’t you publish bits of it as you go along,” someone suggested, knowing that I am writing my first novel. I was opposed to doing so then,  but I am sharing now, although it’s not something I plan to do often. I am doing so because I wept as I wrote this morning.

In a way, I was astonished at myself for crying over words printed on a computer screen about a fictional character. But when I thought more about it, I considered again that novels come from the author’s mind–in this case, from my mind, and that the people in my novel are real to me because in one sense of the word, they are real people. I have seen their lives. I have cried with them, and I have clapped at their accomplishments. I have eaten meals with such people, and have sat in conferences with them. I’ve shared their struggles.

So, from a first draft of my first novel with the working title, The Soul of Abram Clark, I bring you part of chapter 10.

Richard beat on the floor, his two black fists, hammers.

For two hours, Richard and Sten sat on the floor immersed in conversation that was a mix of Richard’s vomiting out hate and fear and of Sten’s projecting hope and understanding. There was no balance in the conversation: Sten listened long and easy, while from Richard spewed a torrent of words and emotions, as though the walls of Hoover dam had split asunder and the pent-up Colorado had rushed to cover land and houses and farms and roads. Or perhaps the escaping river was of oil, black and greasy, that crashed boulders about and that decimated life and that wasted the landscape.

Finally, Richard was finished, emptied. His face was swollen, his eyes almond slits. The two men sat in silence on the living room floor of the Shepler home.

“Richard, Marjorie and I have spoken about this, and we are inviting you to live here with us, permanently. We believe in you and in your potential for success—even for greatness. There is something special inside you—something that you probably are not able to recognize yourself, although somewhere deep inside, my words may resonate with a tiny spark in your heart. Life has tried to beat it out of you and has tried to destroy you. You’ve been kicked around by your mother and abandoned by your father. Drug dealers have pawed over your young body and over your impressionable mind. You have been mutilated and bloodied.

But listen to me, Richard.” Sten again placed his hand on Richard’s shoulder. Richard’s head banked over. His eyes were closed. “You are a survivor. You are of strength. You are steel and of integrity.”

Richard lifted his head and looked straight now into Sten’s face.

“There is an intangible factor within you, Richard. You are destined to make a mark on this world—a positive mark. You will make this world a better place.”

Richard stared, unblinking. Tears began tracking down his mutilated face. He did not move. In an infinitesimal motion, he elevated his head.

“I’m investing in you, and I am positive my return will be of a thousand-fold,” Sten finished.

There you are, the first ones to read from my developing novel. I’m interested in hearing anything you might have to say.

(I don’t know where all those extra quotation marks came from, but I cannot get rid of them. Please ignore them. 🙂  )

Eat Mor Chikin

In Phoenix, a few months ago, I saw a billboard like this one and I roared with laughter. It probably is my favorite billboard of all time. Jerry was driving and didn’t see it, so I tried to describe it to him. Since then, I’ve learned from the internet that there is a whole series of Chick-Fil-A cow ads. They strike me as very funny, especially this one. Check it out–a team effort–one cow perched on another to get out the crucial message. Don’t eat us–eat those chickens. Love it!

Chick-Fil-A is a southern entity and are not widely available here in California where I live. In April of 2012, their 49th California store was opened on Harbor Blvd. in Costa Mesa, and they are planning more openings.

Today, as most of the country knows, I’m sure, has been designed a day to show appreciation for “president Dan Cathy (who) told the Baptist Press last month that the Atlanta-based company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” That unleashed a torrent of criticism from gay rights groups and others, who have called for boycotts and efforts to block the chain from opening new stores.”

If you have the chance, today, get out and “eat mor chikin.” We must fight to protect our First Amendment rights!

Persistence, the Crucial Step to Success

“A southern writer named John Kennedy Toole wrote a comic novel about life in New Orleans called A Confederacy of Dunces. It was so relentlessly rejected by publishers that he killed himself. That was in 1969. His mother refused to give up on the book. She sent it out and got it back, rejected, over and over again. At last she won the patronage of Walker Percy, who got it accepted by the Louisiana State University Press, and in 1980 it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.” __From Rotten Reviews (Reported by Noah Lukeman in The First Five Pages.)

Rare is the man who goes to such extreme as suicide in response to rejection and to the perception that his work has been marked as failure. Probably universal, though, is the anxiety that attacks us when it seems we just cannot attain the success for which we reach. Others about us are more successful, their churches are bigger and better, their children well-behaved and ours are squirmy. Our friends are well-dressed and articulate. Their cars are shiny and dependable, their houses large–the paint not peeling. Some of them fly around the world, in wide demand as teachers and preachers, while we hear only the silence of un-ringing telephones and our engagement book is pristine and unmarked. Others’ art pieces and others’ engineering designs are perceived as prestigious, while ours remain undistinguished. No one pins medals on our lapels.

I want to remind you today that the Bible speaks to this scenario, and that the instructions therein are clear: persist, hang-on, keep trudging, keep believing, use your gifts, hone your tools.

Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. I Cor. 15:58

Think about this: If after the grief of her son’s death, and the pain from multiple rejections of his work, that mom hadn’t sent out his manuscript one more time, the papers would now be in a trash heap somewhere, burned into grey ash. Instead they are ribboned with one of the highest writing honors in the world: The Pulitzer.

Don’t give up. The corridor is long and the steps are high. Sometimes it’s dark, and you just might be tired. Don’t give up! Give your work one more thrust, one more shove, one more opportunity. Success may be close, very close.

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PS July 30th 6:17 pm I’ve thought about this subject throughout the day and want to add something that is crucial for us to consider. The manuscript that finally won the Pulitzer was the same manuscript that had been rejected numerous times. Think about it; excellent work that later would receive the highest of accolades was summarily rejected time and time again.

So, then, your having failed to attain the success you’re reaching for may not be a fair assessment of the quality of your work. It may. It may not. Time and place and chance come together and in great part determines the immediate success or failure of any project.

The lesson remains the same: Persist!