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A Silver Star for Monica Lin Brown

To Monica Lin Brown, I add my congratulations on your receiving the Silver Star. I honor you and thank you for outstanding service to your fellows and, thereby, to me, and to our entire country, the United States of America.

CAMP SALERNO, Afghanistan — A 19-year-old medic from Texas will become the first woman in Afghanistan and only the second female soldier since World War II to receive the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for valor.

Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown saved the lives of fellow soldiers after a roadside bomb tore through a convoy of Humvees in the eastern Paktia province in April 2007, the military said.

The entire article is here.

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The Saga of a Home Missions Conference

The Flat, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

We had arrived in Phoenix around 4:00, checked into our hotel, and Jerry snagged a bit of rest, although he was not quite at ease. About an hour before we arrived, as we sped down the highway, Jerry had taken a phone call, asking him to be ready to speak on Friday morning. Seems Carlton Coon, the scheduled main speaker for the conference, was snow and ice-bound in the Dallas airport.

The little rest was over, and a few minutes past 5:30 found us in the lobby with our friends the Hogans joining Stacey Wiley who would drive all of us to the Rawhide, a simulated western village, where we would prowl around a little before joining the others for a Home Missions Banquet.

Jerry and I were in fine company. Gary Hogan is the district superintendent of Arizona, and his wife, Elaine, and I have been friends for a few years now.Stacey Wiley pastors a church in Peoria (Phoenix), is the Home Missions secretary, and is also a long-time friend. Several years ago, he assisted Jerry at our church in Rialto, and actually lived in our home for a number of months.

We were having a jolly time, when this rumbling noise arose–a sound as of a Harley motorcycle–except there was one major problem: no motor cycle was in sight, and the noise stayed with us.

“It’s my tire,” Stacey said, and looking carefully across the lanes of the Phoenix work traffic, he maneuvered to the side of Freeway 17.

Cheerful as always, and with a wide grin, Stacey said, “Good thing I have on jeans.”

A problem immediately presented itself, for the spare tire was stored under the truck in such a way that special tools were required to release it and bring it into sight. The men were perusing the vehicle instruction book, when a young man yelled as he was passing, “Do you need help?”

“We might,” I answered.

“I can help with that,” he said when the men explained the problem. “Just had to do it on my own vehicle.” Between three smart, strong men, the deed was done, the disintegrating tire thrown into the truck bed, and the darling spare was installed.

My men offered cash to the fine young man who had stopped, but he would have none of it. There are so many excellent, unselfish, caring people in our world. I want to be careful to remember that, and to guard against cynicism and a negative perspective about our society.

We were no longer early for the banquet and were unable to explore the Rawhide Village, and almost immediately when we entered the dining hall were seated for our meal. I choose a T-bone steak, which was juicy and perfectly grilled, and so big that I gave half of it to Jerry. He ordered fried catfish and shared one of his pieces with me, but I could not eat it–too much food.

I snapped a couple of shots on our way out after the scrumptious meal. Looks intriguing, huh? Oh, well, maybe next time I’ll investigate the whole place

Jerry did a fine job this morning, as did Gary Hogan and Paul Conner. Poor Brother Coon…still in icy Dallas, or headed back to St. Louis, I suppose. They’re flying in someone from California I believe for the concluding service tonight.

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McKay Hatch Continues With His Notable Mission

Among my hundreds of posts over the past two years, the story of McKay Hatch probably was the cause of more negative responses than any other–some comments were bad enough so that I deleted them. During the early days of McKay’s work, his own blog was hacked, and his righteous posting was replaced with that of derogatory remarks and vile overtones.

EDIT–Thursday am: Again, I want to emphasize the depth of fierce response this story has caused. My original post is continuing to draw vile and hateful remarks. Some I have deleted because of their filth, but I have left as many as seems wise. If you’re interested, please check the ongoing comments here. The passion aroused is amazing, and unfortunately very telling.

Now this remarkable young man is back in the news. Because of the influence of McKay Hatch, the mayor of Pasadena, CA. has declared his city a no- cussing zone during this week. Again, I salute this courageous, honorable teen-ager.

South Pasadena is an official no-cussing zone this week.

The designation comes at the suggestion of a 14-year-old boy who founded the “No Cussing Club” in the city.

This fun-loving South Pasadena high school freshman is on a mission to clean up our foul language. McKay Hatch is the creator of the “No Cussing Club” and this week he’s asking everyone to give up their favorite four-letter words.

“I’d like to have a cuss-free week in every state and nationwide,” said Hatch. “People say it’s March 3rd. Let’s clean up our language this week.”

The link to the complete article is here.

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My devotional blog is here.

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The Times of Your Life–Part 3

Lil White and Time, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

For more than 30 years, I believe, my dear friend Lillian White was the ladies ministries president of the Western District, and it was under her leadership that our ladies conferences were begun. In the beginning we referred to them as ladies retreats, as they were held in rustic retreat settings.

During the 25th anniversary conference in Visalia she was honored in many ways. One involved calling her to the front and presenting her with an elegant single crimson rose. She is a beautiful and very dear woman of God. I have seen Lillian faced with extreme challenges, and while I have seen her hurt–and expressing such hurt–I cannot recall ever seeing her angry with anyone. Truly, I cannot…and I have known her intimately for more than 50 years.

In this column, I want to add this personal tribute to Lillian White. The richness of my life has been enhanced by knowing her, and any skills I may possess in a similar area are to a great extent a result of sitting at counsel with her, of talking in private with her, of praying and crying and rejoicing together…over a very long period.

She is deserving of any honor and praise extended to her.

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My devotional blog is here.

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Ordination of Joel Buxton

By the Laying on of Hands, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.
Nothing in my life is so precious as the distinct realization of God’s having honored us to such degree that several of our family have been divinely called into the ministry. It is with profound humility that I even consider such reality, and it is with the absolute knowledge that none of us, in any way, deserves such holy honor and opportunity to be consecrated for such mission. I am awed by our extraordinary circumstances and hallowed benefits.
My grandson Joel is the latest to be so privileged, and on Sunday night at Hilltop Tabernacle, my eldest child, Steve, preached the ordination sermon to his son, Joel. He’s my son, and you know how mothers are, so take it with a grain of salt, but I doubt you will ever hear better preaching than that coming from my son, Steve. He is singularly gifted by God…and with all meekness do I say this, for such gift is only from God, and without Him, we are but stammering, vacuous beings.
Jerry had the rare and blessed opportunity to pray the ordination prayer. Such a moving moment this was, and I was especially touched, as Jerry laid his hand on Joel to pray a beautiful prayer, to see Joel reach out and grasp the arm of his beloved Pappy. Joel is a fourth generation preacher and he has been quick to seek counsel from his elders. God blessed Joel with the most beautiful, elegant, humble, talented, sweet wife. Aisha is her name.
Pictured here are my four favorite preachers: Andrew, my youngest who is planting a church in LaMesa, Ca., Joel, Jerry and Steve.
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Joel has been elected pastor of a church in Carson City, Nevada. Today, from San Diego, with their three beautiful boys, they will drive to their place of ministry. Please pray for this couple–indeed for all God’s ministers around the world.
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More comments and pictures of the ordination service are here.
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Music for Valentine’s Day

A well-known classical piece of music is that called Moonlight Sonata. The actual name of the composition is Sonta in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2. I bring it to you today for three reasons:

1. It is a work of art of the highest degree.

2. This particular recording is accompanied by stunning images of the moon.

3. Composed by Beethoven, the music was dedicated to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, with whom he fell in love….perfect music for this day–Valentine’s Day

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My devotional blog is here.

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Bella Burned to Death to Save Her Family

Of all the ghastly things that can happen to a family, a house fire must be number 1 on the list, for it’s deadliness and painful consequences are fearful to consider. To picture a fire breaking out at night when the family is sleeping and tragically unaware is a horrifying thought. Last week such a nightmare became a reality in Winona, Minn….but Bella, a golden retriever-collie sensed the fire and jumped onto her master’s bed. Barking frantically, she rousted the family from their beds and saved their lives. Sadly, in the process, Bella was burned to death.

WINONA, Minn. – Bella, a 3-year-old golden retriever/collie mix who was once rescued as an abused puppy, returned the favor to her owners by alerting them to a house fire. With help from Maddie, a 6-month-old golden retriever, Bella helped get Sue Feuling and her 9-year-old daughter, Mckenzie, out of the house last week. The dogs didn’t make it.

“Those dogs were without a doubt the heroes,” said Winona Assistant Fire Chief Jim Multhaup.

Bella had jumped on Feuling’s bed early Friday morning and started barking, and Feuling then smelled smoke, grabbed her daughter and rushed out of the house.

But Feuling couldn’t coax the dogs out of the house, even when she tried to run back in to yell for them.

“Bella must have thought Mckenzie was still in the house,” Feuling said.

A firefighter who arrived at the scene tried to save the dogs, but it was too late. The Feulings were taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation monitoring, but were OK, Multhaup said.

The fire, which was caused by an overloaded electrical outlet, gutted the home, Multhaup said.

While an assistance fund was set up, Sue Feuling said she was only thinking about her dogs. ”

From the Associated Press Monday, February 11

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Belief–Principle 1

“They can conquer who believe they can.”

Virgil

I will probably spend more than one day on this subject for its thrust is massive, and I am gripped by the far-reaching tentacles of such understanding.

Principle 1

We must believe in ourselves if we are to succeed.

It is almost incomprehensible to imagine success for a person who does not believe in himself. Latent talent shrivels, inherent gifts fail to mature, and strategic ideas birthed in a brilliant mind find no nurturing soil, and thus fail to mature. The person who does not believe in himself will likely spend his days among shattered, ill-laid plans, wrecked relationships, and ultimate failure.There are exceptions, but typically whether or not a person believes in himself springs from an inner mirror that is reflected from those around him–his parents, his teachers, his minister, his neighbors. How the world perceives him, how they mirror it back, how they speak to him, of what goals and talents they converse–determine to a large extent the image that person grasps.
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The mantle, then, rests on you and me. We each are charged to touch our friends, our students, our family–especially our children–and to mirror our positive thoughts and aspirations for them. For it is only when man believes in himself that his finest work will be done. It is a powerful force we possess–that of helping another believe in himself.
I’m not sure where I read her story, but I want to bring part of it to you today. She was identified only as a 13-year-old student, and she tells of a very difficult time in her life…when she had totally lost hope. Thirteen years old, mind you…and she had lost all hope. She was lonely…and desolate. She told of being at school on the playground…and of being alone. She walked round and round the playground equipment, speaking to no one.
Finally she entered the classroom, watched as the teacher checked the role, and then says:
Sometime during the lesson, I began looking up from my books at the faces around me, and as I did so memories kept flooding back to me. Suddenly I felt hot tears build behind my eyes, and soon felt them falling on my face. I quickly lifted my textbook to cover my face. By this time tears were flowing freely down my face and burning my cheeks silently. I thought to myself, “Look at them! Not one of them cares that I’m here, NOT ONE!”
A sob escaped my throat, “Oh well, today will be the last day I’ll have to put up with this because tonight, tonight I am finally gonna do it! Tonight I am finally going to die……”
Yes, it’s true! That night I was going to commit suicide yet again. That’s right, again. I had tried many times before but I always woke up, threw up or passed out before I died. It was as though something wouldn’t let me die, as though I was meant to live for something.
The class was dismissed for recess, most of the students left the room, but the 13 year-old stayed at her desk–drawing, sketching, deliberating.
I never heard him approach me until he was practically standing on top of me. “Nice drawing,” he said in his usual happy way. “Thanks…,” I mumbled while fumbling with my pencil sharpener.
Before I knew it he had launched into the “I’m there if you need to talk,” comforting pep talk they spoon feed you from first grade. I politely looked at him while he said the same speech that I had heard so many times before, while quietly thinking, “Oh, my good Lord. You can’t be serious. I can’t believe he’s actually saying this..,” but then he said something, I would never forget–I BELIEVE IN YOU.

Later that night, as I lay on my bed, rattling my mom’s prescription pill medicine and thumbing a knife, I reflected on my life. Nothing! I popped the lid to the pills and dumped them into my mouth. As I was preparing to swallow, I raised the knife to my wrist and looked in the mirror…There I saw my reflection. I saw my long blond hair, tangled and messy. I saw my young self, scared and alone.

The pills felt huge as I swallowed them. Then I looked into my eyes, a tear escaped them; the words, “I Believe in You,” echoed soundlessly in my head.

I dropped the knife and ran to the washroom and threw up the pills. Then I walked back to my bedroom and cried. It was my teacher’s words–Mr. Godecki’s words–that showed me I was not alone. It was those words that brought me love, even if they were only spoken by a grade school teacher.

 

By speaking positive words to those humans with whom through life we jostle, we may see the development of excellent grocery men or truck drivers or artists or writers or teachers. And then again, we may recognize the saving of one or two from absolute destruction.

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City of Montgomery–Warrant #14254

I love this land. I’m loyal to my country, I’m proud to be an American and I’m interested in its politics and its progressions. It angers me when I hear of its being demeaned and ridiculed. The United States of America is the greatest country on the face of the earth. My heart quickens at the sight of our beautiful flag aflutter against a pristine sky. I stand splendidly erect as I pledge allegiance to its red, white and blue, and, proudly, I belt out the words to The Star Spangled Banner. With passion and sincerity I sing the beautiful song, God Bless America.

But there is a part of our history of which I am deeply ashamed. The decades of absolutely inhumane treatment of our black people is an embarrassment. The ink that marks such story is a blight–a stain– on the history pages of the United States of America. It astonishes me to recall that it is our very recent history that speaks of such despicable acts as being common and acceptable among us–yeah, even the norm. It astounds me to recall that it was only in the year of 1955, the year I graduated from high school, that Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama. Her crime? She would not move. She refused to rise from her seat and walk to the back of a city bus. It is nothing short of outrageous that she was expected to perform such a humiliating act. I regret that such a story accurately depicts a segment of my country’s history.

On December 1, 1955, during a typical evening rush hour in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42 year-old woman took a seat near the front of the bus on her way home from the Montgomery Fair department store where she worked as a seamstress. Before she reached her destination, she quietly set off a social revolution when the bus driver instructed her to move, and she refused. The bus driver called the police and they arrested Rosa Parks, an African American woman of unchallenged character. The African-American community of Montgomery organized a boycott of the buses in protest of the discriminating treatment they had endured for years. The boycott, under the leadership of 26-year-old minister Martin Luther King, Jr., was a peaceful, coordinated protest that lasted 381 days and captured world attention. Mrs. Parks, who passed away on October 24, was called the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” She was not the first person to be prosecuted for violating the segregation laws on the city buses, but it was her quiet act of defiance that touched a nerve in the black community of Montgomery, Alabama, and set in motion a historic act of resistance.

On this day as we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Martin Luther Kingand as I duly honor him, I wish also to commemorate the brave actions of Rosa Parks. What a courageous, splendid model of humanity she was. With what distinction she served us–the peoples of the United States of America. Her heroism is noted on the City of Montgomery Warrant #14254.

Images of documents and other material courtesy of the National Archives.

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The Secret of Santa

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Susan Dahl had spent four months homeless in Colorado and just been on a harrowing 10-hour bus trip through sleet and snow. Hungry and broke, all she wanted to do was get back to family in Minnesota.

That’s when a tall man in a red coat and red hat sat next to her at the downtown bus station, talked to her quietly and then slipped her $100 on that recent December afternoon.

For years, Larry Stewart had been a secret Santa, for it was only last year that he revealed his identity.  His appearance has always been quite different from that of an ordinary Santa. This is his picture…but earlier this year at the age of 58, he died from cancer. Through the years in his secret way, he had given away over one million dollars. Anonymously he walked the streets, rode buses, saw people in need and handed out $100.00 dollar bills.

more hereand here.

Now other people have taken up the joyful task, and are walking our world handing out joy.

“There was this fella named Larry Stewart,” one of the new Santa’s tells a man in the bus station. “He was an old friend of mine. He was called Secret Santa, and every year he would find a few people who might need a little money and he would ask that you pass on the kindness.”

People respond differently to the gesture. Some cry. Some scream. A rare few even say “No thanks.”

Others take the money and offer their own gifts, like Robert Young, who was homeless and had only 20 cents in his pocket. When Secret Santa gave him $200, Young, 50, took out an old notebook and ripped out a song he had written.

“It’s yours now,” he told Secret Santa, who thanked Young, and carefully tucked the pages into his pocket.

The new Secret Santa has also started a Web site, and is trying to recruit other Secret Santas across the country. “Larry’s dream was for a Secret Santa in every city,” Kansas City’s Santa said.

There are now a couple apprentices, with more candidates turning up all the time. But, he says, you don’t have to be willing to hand out money to be a Secret Santa.

“Anyone can be a Secret Santa,” he says. “You don’t have to give away $100. You can give away kindness. Help someone.”

What say we join this club? Maybe it will be money you hand around, maybe it will be a plate of cookies, or a simple gift, or a chunk of time to sit beside a hospital bed. Secret Santas…the spirit of Christmas.

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My devotional blog is here.