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Lillian White

I met her when I was 18 years old. Now those two numbers are reversed, and with a bow to frank honesty I acknowledge myself to be 81. (Eighty-one? How can this be so? We will speak to that strange subject another day.) The husband to Lillian was Sam. My Jerry and I called the couple Brother and Sister White. We were all in church work; Brother White was the pastor of a church in Bellflower, CA. and Jerry was an evangelist. We wives toddled beside our men, making our unique contributions to life, and to the Work of God.

We became the dearest of friends. Together we worshipped, traveled, played, laughed (and cried), did business, pastored churches, planned conferences, cooked, ate great meals, celebrated weddings and birthdays and retirements over a period of more than sixty years. By then we had began using close names, and it was Sam and Lil and Jerry and Shirley.

Now, at 98 years old, she is gone, as is Sam (and is my Jerry.) Her sweet funeral was last Friday. (The following pictures compliments of Debbie Akers.)

She truly was a remarkable beautiful woman of God, and I believe it well within the mark to rank her with notable women of the Bible, and to revere her as such.

I nominate her to stand beside the chief women of Thessalonica who were among the first to receive the gospel at the preaching of Paul and Silas. As she labored in ministry with her beloved Sam, she is in line with Priscilla who labored in ministry with her husband Aquilla. I’ve seen her as strong as Deborah, and once when we wanted to begin Ladies Conferences and could be heard rumbles of disagreement in high places, she marched step in step with Esther and said, “If I perish I perish.” She was as capable as Abigail, as full of faith as the Syrophenician woman, as humble as Elizabeth, and as Mary, she was chosen of God. As was Dorcas, she was known for her good works. Perhaps John the beloved says it best when he dedicated one of his books to The Elect Lady.

Now she is gone, resting in the presence of God.

It was five years ago when Sam and Lil were visiting in our home in Crestline that I lined them up near the hearth of our fireplace to take their picture. How beautiful they are. Wrinkled. Used up.

(I would so love for you who knew the White’s well, to take the time to add your tribute in the comment section here.)

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A Happy Day

Melina said it correctly, “This is a bittersweet day.” Indeed it was, for its curious boundaries metered funeral flowers, eulogies, and graveside committal words. Flowing tears and grievous expression held hands with mirth and laughing aloud.

Two of our sons, their wives, and one grandson, along with Jerry and me, had attended the funeral of our dear friend, Rev. Paul Walker. It was a beautiful service, where loving honor was paid to this great man of God. Jerry was honored by being asked to speak during the graveside service.


Jerry’s birthday had been the day before. He had already celebrated with birthday dinners and breakfasts, a myriad of phone calls from family and friends, and by opening packages received in person, and in the mail. These particular youngsters, though, had not seen him on his special day, although they had communicated by mail and by telephone calls.

“Dad,” said Andrew at the conclusion of the services. “Let’s go eat somewhere. Celebrate your birthday a bit more.”

No one knew a close-by place to eat, so Andrew and Shauna consulted maps and recommendations on their phone, and we all pulled up in front of Billy Qs in Palm Desert. It was a tiny pizza place, with not a table to seat us all, except for one with high stools, so we scurried around, and helped Jerry get seated up there. After we had received the drinks we had ordered, Andrew leaned in, and said, “There’s a really nice place next door. Want to pay for our drinks and go there?”

“No.” I said, “Let’s don’t do that.”

All agreed, and what a dynamite decision we made. The food is outstanding, and the people are fantastic. The female partner of the man/wife owners of the little place was our waitress . . .and she is a hoot.

My husband has a line he loves to use in restaurants–one which causes the rest of us to smile wanly, and take on an apologetic look. Sometimes we tuck our heads. “Do you take food stamps?” he asked Darnelle.

She missed not a beat. “Yes we do. However, you need to provide three forms of ID.” Wide-eyed, Jerry was speechless. The rest of us were howling.

The upward momentum never faltered during that fine hour. When Darnelle learned this was a birthday celebration of sorts, she went next door to Cold Stone, bought an ice cream cake, and set it at the end of our table. She scurried up a make-shift candle, and we sang. Before we left this charming place, Darnelle was in the middle of all of us, and we were hugging and promising to see each other again.

For part of the summer, she and her husband take an RV to Big Bear Lake, which is about 20 miles from where Jerry and I live. “We take a portable pizza oven there, and cook up pizzas for everyone in the RV park.” She wrote her phone number on the back of a card. “Call me. We also take a boat there. Love to take you out on it.”

I love living.

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People of the Wait

While you Wait . . .

. . .While you wait for the Library of Congress to catalogue your book you can squat and hold a stick like his in your hand and draw lines in the dirt and steal a glance at his little face, and if you do it long enough he may turn his head sideways and look back at you.

. . .While you wait for them to know you should be their pastor you can go in the wee hours. Go to a hospital, to the back entrance where blood drippings will steer your feet. Trudge through the wide doors and look. See. By chance a person on a green plastic chair may haul up his eyes and latch onto yours. While you wait to be a pastor you may see into his soul or hers. It is probably dark down in there.

from my WIP Dream Shards

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Leaving Racism

“You don’t leave racism at the door (of a church), you leave it at the altar.” Rev. Johnny King NO LIMITS CONFERENCE Sacramento, CA.

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What Will We Do With This Moment?

Photo courtesy of AP/Andrew Harnick

“Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history. What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?”

President Donald Trump

Jerry and I had watched the clock and before 6:00 arrived had tuned into Fox News on our computers, as we were eager to hear the State of the Union address by President Trump. Although the purpose of this piece is not to critique the speech, it seems appropriate to note his thoughtful, patriotic, uplifting words to be of the highest caliber.

It was his words, “What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?” that resonated with me, and it is of that I speak.

I recalled a day at the beach as I watched a man with his children. What of their moment? Where will they go? What will they do?

She was afraid, I recall, for while you cannot discern it here, there was a chasm, a drop-off, a scary place. Seeing her fearful crouch, he took the hand of his young daughter, and led her across. He taught her in that moment he would protect her, that she could trust men, that her daddy loved her and her mommy loved her, that she could conquer fear; indeed that sometimes it was okay to be afraid.

Others. Rather. Memory loam foul for the dig, deep the findings of scream and stagger. The hate. Hide and cut. Reach. A hand? ……..Any? Is there none? A slap, that’s a hand

Didn’t you know that?

And you new in my heart. A moment. To take. Of peace, Divinity, sobs, shame. Reach. A hand? ……Any? There is one and another ……and that is love. And forgiveness. And care.

Didn’t you know that?

And the good man I watched . . .as he watched . . .as he yet watches. And now is her birthday. She’s twelve. She’s safe.

New blog post on God Things. Link below.

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On The Cusp

Occasionally we finger the edge of it; our touch reckons it to be uncommon, even of the eternal. From our deep, issue thick tears, even as our breath catches. Rarified has brushed against us; encounter with glory laces our world.

Compelled to know the depth of this story, I recognize it now more than ever, to be our story, Jerry’s and mine, and in an unfathomable way, he is as our child. He who nearly killed Jerry. We weep . . .for him. . . for his people . . .for ourselves . . .for mankind. Journal words grip . . .his father discarded by drugged parents–orphanage drop-off, as casual as the mailing of a post office package. Rage. Violence. Carried to new generation . . .and to another, kicked as a bent can down the wretched road of drugs and alcohol and anger.

“My father, an Italian man was racist, called flies on the wall niggers. My mother mentioned that she did not like me at one point because I was David Jr.” A sense of aloneness in his family engulfed him, he told me yesterday, and still at this time in his life, he intimated, “I have a sense of aloneness.”

And so we met, and talked, and cried, and loved. We apologized. We forgave.

 

Dave and his wife, Dana.

At the Claim Jumper, we ordered food we could not eat.

And they had brought their copy of A Thousand Pieces, and I wrote in it, and then did Jerry, and maybe at that moment none of our eyes took in the dedication page: To Jerry, who lived it.

So here we are. On the brim, the edge. Delving, Searching. We read. We write. The last chapter? On the margin of enlightenment, self-understanding, reckoning with ourselves, finding our way ever deeper into the presence of God. The Buxtons and the Esteys . . .on the cusp. . .

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Addiction Christianity/Religion Courage God Goodness of man Life overcoming adversity Religion

A Rare, Noble Man

As soon as it beeped, I reached for the phone beside me and as I lifted it, I saw the number was an unfamiliar one. A text message read:

 

This is Dave Estey. The man that was driving the truck. I have read the book and want you to know how sorry I am. This is my contact number if anyone would ever need to speak to me further. With the deepest regret. God bless. Dave
 

I did not know anyone named Dave Estey, but as soon as I read his message, I knew that indeed, I did know him. He was the driver of the truck that twenty-five years ago had struck my husband as he stood beside a disabled car, leaving him so critically injured that he spent five months in St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, CA.

Some of you will know that several years ago I wrote a book entitled A Thousand Pieces in which I told the story of Jerry’s death in the street, the lady who revived him, his almost unbelievably severe injuries, and his remarkable recovery. I also told that the driver of the truck who hit Jerry was driving with a suspended license, had no insurance, no assets, was drunk, and was high on methamphetamines.

 

A Thousand Pieces has been an inspiration to scores of people, and is now in its fourth printing. Among other places, it is available at Amazon.

So, as I looked at my phone on January 17, 2019, I came to the reckoning that Dave Estey was that driver.

“Jerry,” I called across the room. “Listen to this text I just received.”

The details are too many to include here, but know this: Jerry and I during the past two days have come to know that Dave Estey is a rare man, one of meekness and goodness; of sweetness and of love. He has fought demons most of his life and is a deeply wounded man. But now, in his early fifties, he has come to himself,  is analyzing his life, and is making restitution. He is humble, remorseful, and truly repentant. Two days ago, he sat by Jerry in a restaurant, looked him square in the face, and, prefaced by several long sentences, said, “I am sorry.”

And my husband . . .in his sweet, slow way, put his hand atop Dave’s, and said, “I forgave you twenty-five years ago.” The sweet presence of God hovered about us, and we all, I believe, wept.

As I said earlier, the whole story is too long to tell here, but you should know this. Sometime back, Dave began searching for Jerry Buxton, and as he did, he came across this blog, learned through it of A Thousand Pieces, and ordered a copy from Amazon. He then made the contact to which I have referred, and made other contacts, which resulted in our meeting together. He lives 450 miles away from us. Last Tuesday he drove down to our area, and along with his wife, and two of our friends, Patrick and Holly Garrett, Jerry and I met him at the Claim Jumper in San Bernardino.

I have essentially finished writing a book called Dream Shards and was working on some drafting of it when the first text from Dave came. The gist of the new book is that each of us has dreams and at one time or another they all shatter. The issue then is what we do about it? Do we wallow around in the ashes, the shards, or do we pick up the pieces and fashion a new piece? A new dream? The coexistence and interaction of Jerry’s story and Dave’s story must be a part of that book. So even though I was through writing it, I am adding another chapter. Dave and I will be communicating by phone and email and the rest of his story will be told in that book.

In the meantime, I submit to you that Dave Estey is a rare and courageous man, and despite his sordid history, he is a good man. We are still shaken about this meeting, and believe it involves more than can be seen or understood. No doubt it is of the spiritual realm, and is directed by God. Both Jerry and I believe Dave has caught a vision of righteousness and godliness, and we will continue to do all we can to lead him to a full biblical experience with God. Please pray for all of us.

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The High Road of Humility–Part Two

Sister Garrett had asked my husband to speak with the young men if he felt it was the right thing, and so came the time after we had eaten when they all gathered in the living room, and Jerry spoke a few words to them. They were so quiet, so attentive, and so obviously moved by his words.

I don’t say too much about it except with our family and close friends, but my husband’s childhood was quite rocky, and that he so effectively pushed through significant challenges is a source of pride to me, and I believe to our children. He was reared in the state of Louisiana, the youngest of twelve children, and more than a few times he has said to me, “We were so poor.” They had no running water, no telephone, no indoor bath, and no car. When he was four years old, his mother died. When he was thirteen his father died.

The Buxtons are great people and his siblings did their best to help him through those challenging years. He lived with some of them from time to time, but he was not really happy. “I never felt I belonged anywhere. Always felt I was in the way.” For a couple of years while he was in high school he lived with a family who had a dairy farm. He rose at 3:30, milked cows, then delivered raw milk to people in the neighborhood before his first session. “I was so sleepy, I often fell asleep in class.”

I believe it was when he was a high school Junior that he went to live with his brother, Bill, who was already a school teacher, and who helped Jerry enroll in a college after he graduated from high school. He worked his way through those four years and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. A young man having a college degree today is not considered especially significant, but in those years, it was an unusual accomplishment.

He had received the Holy Ghost when he was 13 years old, and during his Junior year in college, God called him into the ministry.

“The rest,” they say, “is history.” He has taught school, founded a school, pastored three churches, married a pretty good wife (feel free to snicker here), and sired four children who all are living good lives, and who are filled with the Holy Ghost. So to those young men Saturday afternoon, he gave the good word, “You Can Make It!” No matter your challenge, no matter your situation, “you can make it.” Some of the young men have solid godly families, some have sketchy relationships with their fathers, and some have no fathers at all in their homes.

So ended the afternoon of a memorable, blessed day. Look carefully at the last picture, and you will see that not everything was of a spiritual, holy nature. . .which is quite as should be!

 

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The High Road of Humility

During the exceptional funeral of the late George H. W. Bush, our 41st president, former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson in his droll way said, “Those that travel the high road of humility in Washington are not bothered by heavy traffic.” In my living room, I smiled and considered the heavy truth of the matter.

While I never had the pleasure of meeting President Bush, and while I am not familiar with the little traveled high road of humility in Washington, I am well acquainted with an exceptional couple who traipse about on a similar road here in California. Pastor Patrick Garrett and his wife, Holly, are the leaders of an Apostolic church in Yucaipa, CA.  I’m overcoming my lack of fondness for cliches, when I say to you, “They walk the talk.”

The combination of very cold weather, and our decreasing wood stack which our son Steve heavily contributed to a few months ago, prompted a conversation between Jerry and Pastor Garrett. “I”m bringing you wood, buying it, . . .and  some young men are coming with me to stack it on the deck for you.” The response to Jerry’s insistence that he pay the young men for their efforts was, “No, I checked with them, and they will not accept any pay.”

On Saturday morning, here they came; nine strong, willing, young men, along with their pastor and his wife; exceptional Christians, people with the true love of Jesus Christ emanating from them.

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Pastor Garrett did not find that truck load of mixed hard wood sufficient for us, so after the first was unloaded and stacked on our deck, he pulled his truck out of our driveway and drove back to Yucaipa for another load–close to an hour’s drive.

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I was astonished to see and hear what those young men did next. While their pastor was gone, they took it on themselves–in 40 degree weather–to tackle yard work around our place. As though it were a spring cleanup, they grabbed rakes, hammers, trash bags, and blowers. Cleaned our property until it was spotless. They hosed decks, folded tarps, repaired wall hangings, swept under the front deck, reorganized containers, and from time to time asked, “Is there something else we can do?” My jaw had dropped.

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During the original discussion Jerry told Pastor Garrett we would cook up something for the workers, so on Friday evening around 7:00 Jerry fired up his smoker and for 14 or 15 hours he smoked to perfection a Farmer John Pork Shoulder. from which then he deboned the meat and formed delicious pulled pork sandwiches. I whipped up cole slaw, a huge pot of pinto beans with ham hocks, and crusty corn bread baked in iron skillets. Holly brought desserts . . .and we had a feast.

dsc_0863.jpgOnce while I was in the kitchen one of the young men came to me, so thoughtful and thankful. So sweet, so very sweet. “The table looks like it is for rich people.” His deep brown eyes stared into mine.

“It is for rich people, Caleb.” And then I expressed to him that people with principles and spirits such as this group possessed were rich; indeed they are the richest people on earth. In honor of these rare and treasured people I had set the table with shiny red porcelain plates. and their red and green cloth napkins were held by festive Christmas napkin rings.

IMG_1581Our ears ring daily with horrific tales of disgusting, dishonorable, evil activities. But there are others. Among the few who conscientiously tread the high road of humility and of true godliness are Pastor Patrick Garrett, his wife, Holly, and a number of glowing, exceptional young men.

Just before they left our home, I again thanked Pastor Garrett. “You are a true Christian.” As is his way, he bowed his head, and wept.

I continued. “And following behind you in a steady tramp is an impressive row of young Christians–just like you.”

When President George H. W. Bush removed his coat to warm a cold usher at church one Sunday morning, I was not there. When he wrote personal notes to scores of people, including some I know, I was not there. When he adorned our White House with exceptional ethics and grace I was not there. But recently, and often, it is my distinct favor to mingle with a godly couple and with an expanding flock of beautiful people who contribute to the beauty of this world as they walk the high road toward Heaven. Jerry and I are beneficiaries.

(Sad PS. That is either Gabriel or Joseph whose head I neatly sliced. My sincere apology!)

 

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And Now I am 80

Today I am 80. Eighty and one day to be exact, for yesterday was my official birthday, and although I have been pulled kicking and snorting into the century with old people, here I stand. I am 80!

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Even though my birthday was not until the 24th, the festivities began on Saturday the 14th with my four children and their spouses working together to execute a family party with the number 80 connected to it. My eldest son opened their beautiful property for the event which was a dynamic success. Grand kids bounced about, along with four dogs, all Shih Tzus.

My brother was there: my brother who lives in Pennsylvania, and who a few days before had been in Australia! He strolled from the house to meet me on the patio when Jerry and I arrived, grinning. “You rascal,” I said, “surprising me like this.” I thumped him on the chest. What a guy he is. You will never meet a finer man on this earth.

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They brought presents, food, five or six cakes, fried chicken, couches for pictures, funny items for photographs, a clothesline with my childhood pictures on it, old-fashioned candies, including a moon pie tree. The grandkids told funny stories–one is so great_DSC0126that afterward I went to Chris, and said, “I want you to tell that story at my funeral.” (Stay tuned!) Won’t bore you with all the details. Trust me. It was magnificent. Perfectly done.

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That’s me in the middle in case you didn’t recognize me.

My favorite picture follows here. I was sitting on one of the couches with Steve and Rebecca beside me when my Michael leaped and spread himself across us. Andrew handed his camera to someone else, and joined his siblings. My four exceptional children. Aren’t they gorgeous! Not a picture of my dear hubby in sight, but he was there in fine form.

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_DSC0030My favorite part of the weekend festivities? On Sunday morning we all went to church together. Yep, that was my absolute favorite part. I have a great video I want to post here that would help you understand how special that was, but I’m not sure I know how to get it to this page. I’ll keep trying.

After church we went to a great Italian restaurant in Chula Vista where they serve outstanding food, one of them being an asparagus dish with a delicate cheese sauce. The first time I ate that lusciousness I threatened to lick the plate. Well, now that I’m 80, and not quite responsible for my actions, I . . .you guessed it . . . licked the plate! The owner came to our table for a hug and a picture. The chef emerged from the kitchen and with a great baritone voice, in Italian, belted out Happy Birthday.

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On Sunday, the 22nd, as Jerry and I worshipped with the wonderful people of The Lighthouse Church in Yucaipa, I was called to the front and presented with a huge basket of presents in celebration of my impending birthday. I was stunned, having absolutely no idea they would be making such a presentation. So sweet, so very sweet.

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Yesterday. The day. My 80th. One of the first messages I received was from my greats, Franky and Gabby, who by way of video sang Happy Birthday. I cried, it was so dear to me.

Jerry planned a dinner down the hill at The Claim Jumper, where I thought we would be eating only with Rebecca. When we arrived, though, there were our very special friends, the Garretts, and Kate, one of my Crestline friends. We ate delicious food, they gave me presents, we took pictures and ate cake, then Jerry gave me his gift. A banjo! Yep, a banjo. When several weeks ago he asked what I wanted I told him about my wanting a banjo. I took it out of the box, and played it! (I’m quite sure all the Claim Jumper guests enjoyed such rare dinner music!)  Before I went to bed I watched a YouTube video to help me learn to play it. Have to get me some picks first, I believe.

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DSC_0464So there you have it. I’m 80. Hard to comprehend, can hardly believe it is me. It’s old, I know that. I am now an old lady–no denying the fact. But I’m thankful for life, glad God chose me to be born, grateful for my wonderful husband Jerry, for all my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, other relatives, and my multitude of friends. God has been good to me–so very good.