View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving


View from the Ridge

Over the years I have become an advocate for close family ties.   My mom and dad grew up just a mile or so apart on the same country road.  All the farm ground between them was owned by either a Hoover or a Query.  When I was growing up most of my relatives lived in that same five square mile area of Henry County Indiana, but I didn't.

Once married my parents became nomads and we lived in places like San Diego and Hemet, Calif.;  Kansas City, Missouri; Fairfax, Virginia; New Castle, Delaware, then back to Woodland Hills, Calif.  If it hadn’t been for the many long summers I spent in Indiana I wouldn’t know hardly any of my relatives.   I was always envious of my cousins because they were around each other and all the aunts, uncles and grandparents year round.  I was the novelty relative at the annual family reunions.  “Oh, you must be Bertie Ellen’s boy!”  Hug, hug, kiss, kiss.   Yep, that’s me!
  
As Abraham was told by God “and said to him, 'Leave your family and country and go to the land that I will show you” Acts 7:3, in 1968 Jeri and I were directed to move to La Grande from Southern California.  Maybe the voice wasn’t God’s but some Fleetwood executive, but I know that God was directing everything.  All of our immediate family lived in Southern California as well as most of Jeri’s extended family.  We were young and the excitement of a new area and new beginnings was mixed with the fear of moving to a place we had not even heard of, let alone visited or known anyone from there.  We stepped out in faith that God knew what He was doing and “Surprise, Surprise,” He did! 

Scripture also tells us to “Be grateful for the good things that the LORD your God has given you and your family;” 1Ch 17:16 Over the years He has blessed our family “Better than I deserve” as Dave Ramsey would say.  And as King David said “Then King David went into the Tent of the LORD's presence, sat down, and prayed, "I am not worthy of what you have already done for me, LORD God, nor is my family”.  Deu. 26:11  We have been richly blessed spiritually with a loving church family, with a pastoral staff that preaches the truth of scripture and refuses to compromise it.  We live in a beautiful valley on more acreage than probably 99% of the world.   It has not been without trials and tribulations, heartache and tears, good times and bad, but through it all Jesus has walked with us, carried us when we needed to be, as God molded and shaped us into the servants He wanted us to be.

As I write this, it is just after thanksgiving, and that is what prompted me to write about family and being together.  Seldom do we have all our family here at thanksgiving, and so over the years we have exercised our gift of hospitality and invited friends and neighbors to join our family and our kids that do make it home.

 “If his family is too small to eat a whole animal, he and his next-door neighbor may share an animal, in proportion to the number of people and the amount that each person can eat.” Exodus 12:4.  I ran across this scripture by accident but it so fits with this theme of Thanksgiving and hospitality.  We normally have 12 to 14 at our table at Thanksgiving, but this year it is was 20. Needed a BIG turkey this year, 24 lbs.   Fortunately, God has blessed us with a house that will accommodate a crowd that big.   And our daughter, Kris, came a day early and worked so hard in helping with all the cooking and baking.  Another one of our blessings.   Gal. 6:10 So then, as often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone, and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith.

If a family divides itself into groups which fight each other, that family will fall apart. Mark 3:25.   I have seen so many families split apart by dissention and it grieves me.  I vowed years ago that would not happen in our family.  I have stressed with our kids that disagreements will happen but we will resolve those issues and not let it separate us.  Since 1964 we have only missed 2 Christmas’ where most of us were together, and both of those were due to my health.  I am so thankful to the Lord that we have been blessed with kids that still want to be with family at Christmas and will travel great distances to be here.

Eph. 2:19  “So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God's people and members of the family of God.”  Because of this scripture, Mark 3:25 is also so important in the church family.  We cannot be divided and fight among ourselves, for we will surely fall apart and what kind of witness and testimony will that have among the unsaved in our community.

Twelve years ago I wrote about change that was occurring in our church.  For two years the church dealt with the arrival of a new pastor and his family, new style of worship, contemporary music with different instruments, various church starting times, no Sunday school and then back to having Sunday school,  and we were not done yet.  Just about the time we thought we might be settling into a somewhat normal routine, God ups and orders another change.  He had a new assignment for his servants, our youth pastor Rick and his wife Jeanne.  Through all this we lost some families but the church has continued to grow and prosper. 

We are now at another cross roads where the pastor and elders are advocating some change.  Some might question the wisdom of a second service off site and name change, and that is good.  Sometimes people in the congregation see issues that leadership misses.  Our pastors and Elders have an evangelistic vision that encompasses not only La Grande but the whole valley.  So I encourage you to be mindful that we are a family of believers and we need to listen and carefully consider what is being proposed.

On top of all this, our Associate Pastor is candidating for a senior pastorate at another church, which will result in a huge change for our church.  But change is what life is all about.  I see it every day in the mirror.  Don’t like it but its there.

As for me, I have one more scripture that I need to work on to fulfill.   Mark 5:19But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, "Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.I have added another trip into my bucket list and that is to journey back to Indiana and visit one more time with what few relatives I have left and share with them what an awesome God we serve and what He has done for our family. 
Joshua 24:15  If you are not willing to serve him, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors worshiped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. As for my family and me, we will serve the LORD."







Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dust to Dust

Ecc_12:7  Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us.


Dad, age 42, with first grandchild, Chuck
This past August, the family said their final goodbyes to our dad, granddad and great granddad.  He passed away on the fourth of April this year, requested no services and asked that his ashes be spread in the Pacific Ocean.  My sister, Sharon, and I decided that since Hawaii was in the Pacific, that would fulfill the request.  Besides, the water off of Hawaii is a lot cleaner than off   Oceanside, Calif., where I'm sure he expected to have his ashes spread.

The Doser crew, winging their way to Hawaii.
Andy, Chuck, Stacia, Kris, & the eye of Lani
















Charles and Stacia
A total of 15 family members and two wannabes made the journey to the Big Island of Hawaii to pay their last respects and have a time of family fellowship together.  And what a great time it was!  We used Dick and Sharon's condo and rented two others in the same complex at the Wiakoloa Beach Resort.  The first four arrived on 8-24, with nine more arriving on the 25th to help Chuck celebrate his 50th birthday in the 50th state. (Can't believe I have a fifty year old son).  The last four arrived on the 27th.  It was a minor miracle that we were able to find a 10 day window of time that 17 people from 5 states would be able to take time off from work or school.



On Sunday the 28th, we had a family gathering to remember Dad and share all the good memories we had.  I shared from the 23rd Psalm how fathers are like a shepherd to the family; providing, protecting, guiding and nurturing each member.  Dad was a good shepherd to our family, providing well for us, guarding and protecting us as best he could.  He was wise in giving us what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted.  He was always there for advice, but never interfered in our lives.  The family photo included here is his legacy, the results of two kids leaving Indiana and raising their two kids to the best of their ability.
The following day we took a catamaran out of Kona to spend a half day swimming with the spinner dolphins, spreading Dad's ashes and then doing some snorkeling.  Swimming with the dolphins was a highlight of the trip.
"Hey, where the heck did they go!!"
Picture taken by Andy with an underwater camera

Kris said that the dolphins came so close she could have reached out and touched them.



Spinner dolphins spend the night hunting at  depths  down to 3000 ft.  During the day they seek lagoons that have white sandy bottoms where they can rest and can see the shadows of enemy sharks.









From "spinner dolphin pictures and facts"

















The Captain of our boat then took us out past the three mile marker to spread half of Dad's ashes.  Dick and Sharon will spread the other half later in the Sierra Mountains where Mom and Dad loved to spend time camping and fishing.

The captain then moved the boat slowly in a circle three times around the ashes - a Hawaiian tradition - as they gently spread in a gray cloud just under the surface of the deep blue waters of the Pacific.   Sharon had brought along a bottle of Dad's favorite scotch and poured some into the ocean and then it was passed around for a toast.  Dad was a cigar smoker for most of his life and a couple of those were lit up and passed around.

I had never been a part of spreading some one's ashes before, on land or sea, and really didn't have a clue what to do.  I did remember to make sure the boat was positioned upwind from me so that turned out OK. 

It was a surreal time while the boat was circling the ashes.  I had expected the ash to sink fairly quickly, but it remained just under the surface and slowly dissipated into a larger and larger gray cloud.  It was a very peaceful time as the sea, which was already fairly calm, seemed to become even calmer.

The other Mike, Merrill and Dick
We then went to a snorkeling area.  On arrival the word among the boat captains already there was that "Lucy" the tiger shark was somewhere around and to be on the watch for her.  She is a well known and frequent visitor but has not bothered anyone so far.   Us included.  Did make some just a tad nervous!

Sharon, Lani and Randy "the towel guy".  Dude, you have to spend more time in the sun!



Beth and Kirsti swimming with the dolphins







A special thanks to Lesley and Andy for the use of their pictures.  Great job!




All in all, it was a perfect day.  More to follow later.       Q