golf they have a term called a “Mulligan” which allows a player to hit another
shot. It is like a “do over” after you hit a really bad one. Can you remember a
time in your life where you wish you could rewind the clock or calendar and do
something over? A few years ago, my wife and I were invited to attend a wedding
north of Santa Barbara. She had recently finished chemotherapy so we decided to
drive half way to the wedding, spend the night at a hotel and drive the rest of
the way the next day.
looked online and found a few hotels near Ventura. One looked nice and had a
view of the harbor. There was also an Embassy Suite in the area on the beach
where I had attended a pastor’s conference, but it was twice the price. I reserved
the harbor one.
we arrived a few days later, we were very disappointed. The paint was pealing,
the TV in the room looked like it was from the 1950’s and the view of the
harbor wasn’t like the website!
we unpacked, I suggested we drive over to show my wife the conference site at
the Embassy Suite. It was gorgeous with flowing waterfalls, an impressive lobby
and an ocean view. The contrast was devastating. I felt terrible. I checked to
see if they still had any rooms but they were double what we saw online. Why
didn’t I book the Embassy Suite when I had the chance? Why did I trust
the website and select the hotel by the harbor? I wished I could have a
Mulligan. As we drove back to our hotel we noticed the sign on the building was
missing the letter “H” – it read “otel”. It was clear I had made the
I’m sure that all of us have done something or said something that we wish we could “do over”. Thankfully, the Bible says God is willing to forgive us for our sins and mistakes. He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and kindness (Psalm 103:8 / Jonah 4:2). He is the God of the second chance. He gives us “do overs” we don’t deserve! Thankfully my wife was gracious and forgiving, too. I hope I don’t make this mistake again and hope you don’t either. When in doubt, go with the Embassy Suite and not the “otel”. You will be glad you did!
This article was written by Pastor Mark Hopper of Efree Church of Diamond Bar. Sunday Services are held at 9:00 am & 10:45 am at 3255 South Diamond Bar Blvd. You can contact the church at 909.594.7604 or visit them online at Efreedb.org
Diamond Bar- California was a cattle ranch for many years. It has an interesting history dating back to Mexican land grants and a variety of owners. Our church is built on the site where the original ranch house stood. In the 1960’s, Transamerica Corporation bought the ranch and developed it into a beautiful master planned community.
Diamond Bar does not look like a cattle ranch today, there are some other
residents who still call it home. In the past we have seen deer on the hillside
east of our house. We have seen coyotes trotting down our street. And, we
have seen skunks and raccoons.
church property used to have some undeveloped land behind the first
building. Hawks built nests in the tall pine trees and skunks were seen
from time to time.
day before a Sunday church service a child approached me with an urgent
message. He said there was a skunk in the church! At first I thought he
was kidding, but when several of us investigated we found a skunk lying in the
return air duct that ran under the floor. We could clearly see him but we
weren’t sure if he was dead or asleep.
should we do? Should we evacuate the building or just wait and deal with
the skunk after the service? We decided to wait and not say anything so
we wouldn’t cause a panic and risk waking him up. The service ended without
incident. After people left, a friend helped me investigate. We realized
the skunk was dead. We removed him and buried him in the land behind the
Apparently, he had found his way into the furnace room which had a fresh air grill to the outside. He must have climbed into the return air duct, slid down under the floor and was unable to get back out. We don’t know how long he was there. We actually saw two other skunks on the property that morning. They were probably looking for their lost friend who had disappeared in the church furnace room.
As a pastor, I like to think that everyone is welcome at our church. We encourage friends and guests to attend our services. But, we may need to post a new sign, “No Skunks Allowed”!
This article was written by Pastor Mark Hopper of Efree Church of Diamond Bar. Sunday Services are held at 9:00 am & 10:45 am at 3255 South Diamond Bar Blvd. You can contact the church at 909.594.7604 or visit them online at Efreedb.org
my wife flew home from Arizona on Southwest Airlines. She had been in Phoenix
for a few days visiting her family. Things went smoothly and her flight was on
time. I picked her up and we headed home in heavy afternoon traffic. Suddenly
she realized that she had left her book on the airplane that was going on to
Oakland. She had changed seats shortly after she boarded the plane and had left
the book in the seat pocket in front of her.
was no ordinary book. The book she had been reading was the one that was just
published with my name on it! The book is titled, “Let Me Encourage You”
by Pastor Mark Hopper. It is a collection of 365 articles and stories that I
have written over the past ten years for this local paper. Over a decade ago,
the publishers invited me to write a weekly article for their local advertising
publication. I have enjoyed the opportunity to write many different
stories and articles.
friend encouraged me to put these articles into a book. It took a lot of
time to read through hundreds of stories and decide which ones to include in
the book. Many of the articles are about my own family. Other stories are about
current events in our community or country. It was fun reading these stories
and articles again.
my wife realized she had left my book on the plane, she called the airline.
They gave her the local number for the Southwest baggage office at the airport.
She explained she had left her book on the plane and wondered if it had been
found. She emphasized that this was no ordinary book. It was a book authored by
We were pleasantly surprised to hear that they had found the book on the plane and it was safely in the lost luggage office. We could come by and pick it up any time. What a relief. The lost book was found! Maybe the helpful employee will read a little before we pick it up. If you would like to purchase a copy for yourself or for a friend, you can contact me at my email address (email@example.com). But you have to promise to not leave it on an airplane! Pastor Mark Hopper Efree Church of Diamond Bar
This article was written by Pastor Mark Hopper of Efree Church of Diamond Bar. Sunday Services are held at 9:00 am & 10:45 am at 3255 South Diamond Bar Blvd. You can contact the church at 909.594.7604 or visit them online at Efreedb.org
Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to travel to New York City. I had been there 30 years ago on a trip with my father and my wife had been there about 20 years ago with two girl friends. But, we had never been in New York City together.
We had a great time seeing the sights and enjoying things together. We stayed at a small hotel near Times Square. It was fun to see the huge billboards illuminated at night and amazing to see the large crowds of people filling the area.
We went to see two Broadway shows while wewere in New York. We were able to walk from our hotel to the theaters. We saw the Carol King musical “Beautiful” and the Disney musical “Aladdin”. We really enjoyed both of them.
We rode the “Hop on – Hop off” bus tour around the city. This enabled us to get off at some specific locations we wanted to see. The tour also allowed us to hear a lot about the history and highlights of Manhattan. We went to the top of the Empire State Building and we also visited the “9-11 Memorial”. We actually saw the name of James Hopper listed as one of those who died when the Twin Towers collapsed. We don’t know who this was but the name caught our attention.
There is so much more we could have done and seen, but we really enjoyed our short visit to New York City. However, we did get lost a few times as we walked through different parts of town. We had to stop and ask for help several times trying to navigate our way around the city. People were very helpful.
One night before we went to a Broadway show,we went to a nice restaurant near the theater. My wife’s cousin lives in Long Island and she was able to drive into the city and join us for dinner and the show. The restaurant was packed. Thankfully, we had reservations and were seated right away. The food was great and we were glad to spend time with her cousin. After dinner, we walked right across the street to the theater.
After the show, we went back to the restaurant
to pick up our “left overs” that they kept in their frig for us. We
walked her cousin back to her car and then walked through Times Square back to
The next day after our the tour of Manhattan
and decided to try to get last minute tickets to another Broadway show.
We stood in line at the box office and were glad that there were tickets for a
show that night. However, when I went to pay for our purchase, I
discovered that my Visa credit card was missing! Where was my credit card?
It was lost in New York!
I shared in my last article that my wife and I enjoyed a memorable trip to New York City. We went to the top of the Empire State Building and visited the 9-11 Memorial. We also enjoyed two Broadway shows. But, my credit card got lost! I had all my other cards, but the Visa card was gone.
We were able to purchase the theater tickets with another credit card, but now the search began. Where was my credit card? We had made several purchases during the day but most of those were with cash. We tried to think back to where we had been during the past 24 hours. Should we call the credit card company and report the lost card? What should we do? Where could it be? It was lost in New York!
I knew that one place I had used the credit card was at dinner last night before the show. I called the restaurant to see if I had left it there. They took my name and information and said they would call back if they found anything. It was clear that they were very busy. I decided to walk from our hotel to the restaurant to talk with someone personally. One of the employees said this happens a lot and she went to check in the office to see if my card was there.
I held my breath and said a short prayer hoping that had my credit card. After several minutes, the employee came back with my credit card in hand! She asked for my ID to make sure I really was the owner and then gave the card back to me. I must have left the card on our table when I was signing for the check and packing up our left over food as we were leaving for the show.
We were scheduled to leave New York the next morning. We might have never recovered the card if I had not walked back to the restaurant that night. What a relief! I was so thankful to find my lost card. My wife said that she was thankful that I was the one who lost it and not her! We celebrated by sharing a slice of New York Cheese Cake!
There is a parable in the Bible that talks about a woman who lost a valuable coin in Luke chapter 15. She had nine other coins, but searched her house for the one that was missing. When she finally found it, she invited her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her. She rejoiced when she found it. The point of this parable is that there is rejoicing in heaven when one “lost” person is “found” and comes to faith in Jesus.
I know that all of us have lost something -the car keys, a wallet, a purse or even a credit card. It sure feels good when you finally find it, especially in New York City!
Pastor Mark Hopper is from the Evangelical Free Church of Diamond Bar, 3255 S. Diamond Bar Blvd. Sunday Services are 9 am and 10:45 am. For more information, call (909) 594-7604 or visit Efreedb.org.
Recently, my wife and I were able to attend the Ground Breaking service for Vantage Point Church in Eastvale, California. Our effort to launch a new church in this new community actually started 15 years ago in January, 2003.
Several families from our church had moved to this new community in 2000-2002. It was called Corona Valley at that time. Developers were buying up the Dairy Farms in area from Archibald to the 15 Freeway along Lymonite Road. Hundreds of homes were being built at attractive prices. I often said that you could buy twice the house for half the price in Eastvale.
In early 2003, a family from our church asked me if I would help them start a Bible study in their new neighborhood. Their names were Greg and Carol Crawford. They invited neighbors and we launched a Bible study in Eastvale in their new home.
However, we quickly sensed that we should do more than have a Bible study – we should start a new church in this rapidly growing community. There were three things we began to pray for – a leader, a location to meet and land for a future church site.
In 2007, God provided two leaders – Mark Lee and Tom Lanning from our church staff in Diamond Bar. They offered to enlist the people from the Bible study and recruit people from Diamond Bar to launch a new church in Eastvale. About 40 people banded together to launch this new church.
Throughout the summer of 2007, these people worked hard to promote the new church. They handed out free bottles of cold water to people driving their cars near Hamner and Lymonite. They gave away free gas and did free car washes to meet people in the community. In September, they launched preview services once-a-month in a local Middle School. And, in February 2008, they launched weekly church services with 200 people coming the first Sunday. As the church grew, they were able to move to the auditorium at Roosevelt High School. They now have four church services at the high school with about 2,000 people attending each week.
The church was able to purchase ten acres of land on Archibald Road just north of the Santa Ana River in Eastvale. Our church in Diamond Bar gave a generous gift to help with the down payment. The land had been a dairy farm. On Sunday, September 29, 2018, church leaders broke ground to begin construction on their new facility. It was a historic moment with about 1500 people on the property to celebrate and dedicate this land for the future site of Vantage Point Church.
It will take time to construct and complete this new facility. I am sure their will be roadblocks and unforeseen challenges ahead. This has been a remarkable journey. We prayed for a leader and God provided two. We prayed for a location for them to meet in and God provided a Middle School and eventually a High School. We prayed for land and God provided 10 acres in the middle of this beautiful new community. We are very thankful.
If live near Eastvale and don’t have a church home, I hope you will visit Vantage Point. You can find information on their services and ministries on their website. If you live near Diamond Bar, I hope you will visit our church on a Sunday morning. I think you will be glad you did and we will too!
My wife and I have eight grandchildren. The oldest is ten and the youngest will be two in November. It has been a wonderful experience watching them grow up. There have been a number of milestones like taking their first steps and saying their first words. I actually got my name from our first granddaughter. She couldn’t quite figure out how to say grandpa so she started saying “Pop Pop”. That has been my name ever since!
Some of our grandchildren live out of the area, so we did not get to experience some of these milestones firsthand. However, the youngest of the eight lives nearby and we actually babysit her and her older sister once a week. So we have been able to see some of her first steps and hear some of her first words. In the past few weeks, this little one has started saying a lot of new words and putting some of them into sentences! She repeats words that she hears from us and her parents and from her olde sister. We are continually amazed at the words and phrases that she comes up with.
One day we were startled to hear her count from one to ten. One, two three….and on she went! I don’t think she actually understands the counting part of what she was saying, but there were the words in the correct order – one to ten!
Another time I asked her to say the word “entertainment”. I don’t remember where we were, but I just said, “Janie, can you say the word entertainment”? She did not hesitate. She repeated the word exactly as I said it! I think there are three or four syllables in that big word and she got every one of them right. I should also add that she has leaned some other words quite early – words like “no” and “mine”. I suspect that your kids and grandkids learned these words too. It is amazing to hear the words that come out of the mouths of young children. But, I wonder what kind of words do they hear from your mouth? Do they hear harsh words of criticism and anger? Or, do they hear kind words and compliments? Do your words strengthen their confidence or do they sow seeds of insecurity?
There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Do not let any unwholesome words come out of your mouths, but only words that are helpful for encouragaging others” Ephesians 4:29). I hope your vocabulary is filled with words of affirmation, appreciation and encouragement. I hope that the words you say to others are not selfish and critical, but kind and thoughtful. Let me encourage you to watch your words this week. I hope you will add some new uplifting words of praise and thanks to your vocabulary. You will be glad you did and others will too!
This article was written by Pastor Mark Hopper, Efree Church of Diamond Bar, 3255 South Diamond Bar Blvd, 909-594-7604, Sunday Services: 9:00 & 10:45 AM, Efreedb.org
There are a lot of coffee places in Diamond Bar. We have at least two Starbucks; the It’s A Grind and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Plus McDonalds has the McCafe. I’m sure that the possibilities are endless.
My wife likes me to bring home a cup of coffee for her from one of these local shops. It is called Julie’s Cafe. It is near our home and located in the Walmart – Crunch Fitness shopping center at Diamond Bar Blvd and Grand Avenue.
Since I don’t drink coffee, I can’t compare the tastes and flavors offered at Julies with other coffee shops in town. But I know that my wife prefers the Hazelnut coffee with two packets of sweetener and a lot of cream. I have memorized the formula.
I think that one of the things that make Julie’s so popular is the hospitality. The setting is peaceful and comfortable. I have seen Julie (the owner) personally trimming the potted plants on the patio and tending to the flowers that enhance the atmosphere.
They serve a variety of breakfast items and they have a large lunch menu. They prepare each item with great care on site. They are not open for dinner and are closed on Sunday and Monday. Julie’s Cafe is often filled with people of all ages enjoying good coffee and great food. Guests enjoy the pleasant atmosphere and warm hospitality.
There are a number of verses in the Bible that emphasize the importance of hospitality. You can examine a few for yourself like Romans 12:13, First Timothy 3:1, Hebrews 13:2 and First Peter 3:9. All of them highlight the importance of welcoming others into your home, church, business or office and treating them as your guests.
I wonder how you are doing in this area of your life. Do people feel welcome and comfortable in your home or business? Do you greet them with a warm welcome and friendly smile? Do you make an effort to learn their name and how you can help them?
I think we could use more emphasis on hospitality in our culture today. Let me encourage you to do more to exercise hospitality to your clients, friends and strangers, too. You will be glad you did and they will too!
My brother and I grew up in Arizona. We didn’t have major league sports in the Phoenix area when we were young but there were several Major League Baseball teams that did their Spring Training in Arizona.
One of my memories as a little kid was going to a Major League Baseball game with my brother and our grandfather. The stadiums were much smaller and we got to see some well known players in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Now, sixty years later it was my turn to take one of my grandsons to a Major League Baseball game at Angel stadium. We have gone to several games with our whole family but this was the first time it was just grandpa and grandson. I wondered how the two of us would do on our baseball adventure.
We stopped at In N Out Burger for a quick dinner. We both enjoyed burgers and fries and shared a Milk Shake for dessert. We saw other Angel fans who were going to the game. We arrived at the stadium in time for the National Anthem. As we entered the stadium we each received a free T-shirt marking all star player Mike Trout’s 27th birthday! My grandson was impressed!
A friend had given us two tickets to the game. We didn’t realize they were near the Angel’s dugout less than 15 rows from the field. My grandson and I were very excited to be sitting so close with a great view of home plate.
It was a great game to watch. The visiting team got off to a quick start getting two runs in the first inning. But, the Angels came back in the bottom of the inning scoring five runs. They would score six more runs during the rest of the game and win 11-5!
We brought some snacks with us to enjoy during the game and my grandson also brought his own baseball glove and hoping to catch a foul ball. A couple came in our direction but none were close enough for us to catch. We also did some shopping in the Angel’s team store. He selected a souvenir so he could remember this special time with Pop Pop.
I wondered how long my grandson would want to stay. I asked him a couple of times if he was getting tired and was ready to go home. To my surprise he said that he didn’t want to leave early but wanted to stay until the end of the game. So we stayed until the last out and cheered the Angel’s victory.
I took a lot of pictures with my cell phone and sent them to my wife and his mom and dad. In addition, we were on the Jumbotron during the game as a cameraman captured us and other enthusiastic fans in our section. My grandson was also excited to be part of the “Wave” where fans stand and cheer as the “Wave” sweeps around the stadium. And, we sang “Take me out to the ball game” in the 7th inning.
It was an eventful night at the ballgame. I’m sure it is an adventure that we will remember for a long time. I held his hand as we walked across the parking lot and I couldn’t help but smile – Grandpa and his grandson at a baseball game. As we drove home, I asked my little buddy if he enjoyed the game. He said “Yes”. Then he asked, “Can I close my eyes now?”
Some of our grandchildren and their parents have been staying with us for a few weeks. It has been fun to have a house full of four energetic and enthusiastic young children.
One day one of them found a small newspaper on our driveway and brought into the house. I suggested that we look through the paper and see if there was a picture of anyone we might recognize in it. I said, “I wonder if there is a picture of Pop Pop (me) in the paper”. My six year old grandson replied, “No Pop Pop – they only put pictures of famous people in the newspaper”.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to reply to his comment, but I thought it might be fun to look through the paper anyway. As we proceeded to turn the pages, he did not see anyone he recognized. Several of the advertisements had pictures of people and several of the news articles did too.
As we looked at each page, I asked him, “Is there a picture of Pop Pop on this page?” His answer was always the same – “no”. But, when we got to page eight, he was startled to see a picture of me! The expression on the face of my grandson was priceless. He looked at the photo and looked at me several times. He couldn’t believe it – there was a picture of his grandfather in the newspaper!
I explained that I get to write articles for the “Weekly News” publication. I assured my grandson that a lot of people read my article every week. I don’t know the exact number of readers but I’m sure there are a lot. He asked what kind of things I wrote about so I showed him a few copies of articles that I had cut out from past issues.
We sat on the couch and read a few of the articles together. I was surprised at his level of interest in what his grandpa had written. I told him that I had even written a few articles about him and his sisters. He was surprised but seemed happy to hear that I had written about them.
I couldn’t help but smile as I thought back on that conversation. “Only famous people have their pictures in the newspaper”. I don’t consider myself famous. I’m just glad I get to share my thoughts with a few readers each week. But, if my grandson wants to think that his Pop Pop is famous – I’m ok with that!
Recently, I was playing golf with some friends in the mountains outside Salt Lake City, Utah. It has been pretty hot here in Southern California, so it was nice to get away and enjoy cooler temperatures in the Wasch Mountains in northern Utah.
The sky was blue and the hillsides were covered with pine and aspen trees. There were several sparkling mountain streams running through our golf course. It was a perfect setting for a round of golf with some old friends.
While our wives are out shopping, the husbands usually spend part of the day playing golf. Our wives think it is only fair that they get to spend the same amount of money on shopping as the men spend on golfing. This arrangement has worked out well for many years.
The men usually eat breakfast before heading to the golf course. Then we pack some snacks to take with us on the course. We are too old to carry heavy golf bags and walk 4-5 hours playing 18 holes, so we rent golf carts to help us get around. There are usually two golfers in each cart.
We load our golf bags on the carts and bring a few snacks with us, too. Sometimes we bring a bottle of water or purchase a soft drink at the snack bar to keep us hydrated on the course.
However, there are not only golfers on a golf course; there are small animals and critters living on the golf course too. In fact, we saw at least one deer each day we played.
Some of the full-time residents like squirrels and birds have learned that there is food on those golf carts. Often they will steal food when the golfers walk away to a tee box or putting green.
This year was no exception. While we were taking turns on the putting green, we discovered that a squirrel had climbed up into our cart and was searching for a granola bar or bag of peanuts. They knew exactly what they were doing and when to launch their raid on our goodies! It was clear that they had become skilled, professional thieves who knew exactly how and when to attack.
Fortunately, we noticed they were in our cart before they could do any damage. We chased them away and scolded them for trying to steal our snacks. However, there are a lot more critters than there are golfers on a golf course. This is their home territory. They know every tree and every hiding place on the golf course. They are permanent residents and we are only the visitors. They have home field advantage. We were at a distinct disadvantage.
Fortunately we were able to finish our round of golf without any loss of life or snacks. However, I must admit that we did leave a few goodies behind on the course to express our appreciation to the local residents for sharing their beautiful golf course with us.
Let me warn you the next time you go golfing, watch out for the local thieves and bandits on the course. If you are not careful, they will eat your lunch or steal cookies when you are not watching. But, you may want express your thanks to them by sharing a bite or two. You will be glad you did and they will too!
Last spring, my wife and I traveled to see some of our children and grandchildren who live overseas. We actually flew to Poland and spent a couple of days with them touring Krakow. Then, we went south on a road trip from Poland to their home in Slovenia.
It was fun to see another part of Europe that we had never visited before. We drove through Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria on our way south to Slovenia. These beautiful countries are filled with endless miles of farms and fields producing crops of all kinds. We saw some fields where seeds were just sprouting and others where the corn and wheat were growing rapidly.
Part of our road trip included a stop in the Czech Republic at the headquarters of the organization our children work with. This beautiful conference center is situated on a hillside overlooking the forests and fields below.
As we continued on our road trip, our son-in-law informed us that we needed to stop at a warehouse to purchase some food items that are not available in Slovenia. Our curiosity got the best of us as we inquired what we were looking for in Czech that was not available in Slovenia. He was looking for authentic Mexican food.
Don’t misunderstand; you can actually buy Mexican food items at many stores in Europe. For example, many of the large grocery chains sell Tortilla Chips and other items. But they don’t always taste the same as what we are used to here in Southern California.
We were looking for a warehouse that actually imported authentic Mexican food. It was quite an adventure trying to find this small warehouse. It was not on a main highway. We took some smaller two-lane country roads following the advice of Google Maps. Even with the help of technology it was hard to find. But eventually we found what we were looking for.
Here we were in the middle of Europe at a warehouse that imported real Mexican food. They had Mexican spices, enchilada sauce, beer, tortillas, cheese, spices and a lot more. All of these were authentic – made in Mexico. Our son-in-law was in heaven when he saw so many familiar items that he knew we would enjoy.
“They also had Tortilla Chips that were actually made in Mexico! The chips tasted so good that we bought four cases that each contained 10 large bags. Yummmmy!”
Actually, some of the cases of chips were for other American friends who were hoping to get in on deal. They would not be disappointed. Four cases of Chips were on their way to Slovenia. There would be no shortage of authentic Tortilla Chips in Slovenia for quite a while.
I suspect that there are certain foods that remind you of your home too. We have a broad diversity of cultures in Southern California. Along with these different ethnic groups comes the foods and flavors of their homeland. I know we have grocery stores right here in our area that specializes in Indian, Chinese, Korean and Indonesian products and spices. There are probably many more that I am unaware of. There is something special about enjoying familiar food and sharing it with others.
Let me encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and go explore the grocery stores and restaurants in our area. Find a familiar food from your home country and invite a friend or neighbor to enjoy it with you. You will be glad you did and they will too!
My wife and I have four adult children and eight grandchildren. Some of our children and grandchildren live in Southern California but many of them live far away. We see the local grandchildren frequently, but we don’t get to see the ones who live overseas very often.
In addition, our grandchildren don’t get to see their cousins very often either. Since many of these eight cousins live so far away, they rarely see each other. In fact, our youngest grandchild had not met some of her cousins until this month. She is 18 months old and she had not met over half of her cousins.
Recently, these four cousins flew to LA with their parents. Family members picked them up at LAX and brought them out to meet us. Other members of our family agreed it would be easier to meet at a restaurant so the weary travelers could get something to eat while the parents and kids got reconnected.
When we asked where everyone would like to meet, they unanimously agreed on In N Out Burger! The local family members warmly welcomed the weary travelers with yummy burgers, fries and shakes. There were lots of smiles and hugs at this informal family reunion.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the four older grandchildren circled around our youngest family member. The eighteen month old seemed a little overwhelmed by these older and bigger cousins. It was the first time they had ever met! It didn’t take long for the little one to warm up to these older relatives. It was a moment to remember as these cousins met for the first time.
There is a memorable reunion in the Bible when Joseph is reunited with his brothers. They had been separated for many years and it was an emotional moment when these brothers were reunited in Egypt. Joseph was even more overwhelmed when he embraced his aging father whom he thought he would never see again. You can read the details for yourself in Genesis chapters 37-50.
Summer is often the season for family reunions. Relatives travel from all over the country and around the world and go to great lengths to reconnect with relatives and friends. There is something special about spending time with older and younger family members.
Let me encourage you to take time this summer to reach out to other family members. Make an effort to reconnect with siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles. Whether in person or by social media take the first step and tell those in your extended family that you love and appreciate them. They will be glad you did and you will too!
I delivered newspapers in Scottsdale Arizona when I was in high school. In fact, I was the Arizona Republic’s Newspaper Boy of the year my senior year. In addition, I was awarded a college scholarship by the newspaper to help pay for my tuition when I enrolled at Arizona State University.
There were two newspapers in Phoenix in the 1960’s. The Phoenix Gazette was the afternoon paper. The Arizona Republic was the morning paper. I decided to deliver the morning paper so I could earn some money and participate in sports and other after school activities.
Newspaper subscriptions were sixty cents per week. I had about 100 customers on my route. Initially, I had to collect money every week. Collecting the payments took a considerable time each week, but I had to pay for the newspapers every Saturday. Eventually, I was able to get most of my customers to pay once-a-month. This saved a lot of time.
Delivering newspapers involved getting up every morning at 4:45 AM, every day of the year. Delivering papers was like milking cows – you had to do it every day – rain or shine. Newspaper boys never got a day off! We worked 365 days of the year, even Christmas morning!
I used my bicycle to deliver the newspaper. Even when I bought my first car, it was still easier to ride my bike than to drive my car. You didn’t earn a lot of money delivering newspapers, but I did earn and save enough money to buy my first car – a ‘57 Chevy!
One of the things I remember the most about delivering newspapers every day was watching the beautiful sunrises each morning. My family literally lived on the edge of town. Just beyond our neighborhood were cotton fields that stretched for miles. This provided an unobstructed view of the mountains on the eastern horizon. I could pause on my route to witness the sun come up over the Four Peaks and the Superstition Mountains. The colors were amazing!
On a recent trip back to Arizona, I enjoyed getting up early and going for a walk. The nicest time of day in the Arizona desert is just before sunrise. The birds and animals come to life and the eastern sky is filled with color. It brought me back to my newspaper delivery days fifty years ago.
In Psalm 19, it says, “God’s glory is on tour in the skies and on exhibit across the heavens”. The author goes on to say, “The morning sun is like a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed or like an athlete who races from sunrise to sunset” (the Message Bible).
Let me encourage you to pause and watch a sunrise or sunset this summer. Whether you are camping in the mountains, relaxing on the beach or enduring the morning commute – take time to admire the beauty of God’s handiwork on display. You will be glad you did and He will too!
I was sitting on a park bench a while ago and I noticed that I was the only person wearing a hat! There I was enjoying a little snack in this open pedestrian area watching people go by and it dawned on me that no one was wearing a baseball cap except me.
This pedestrian shopping area was in a Central European country. The spring weather was great. There were blue skies, a cool breeze and plenty of sunshine. It was pleasant, peaceful settings as I relaxed by myself and watched the world go by. But, the only one wearing a hat was me!
I started to watch more carefully. Was this really true? Was I really the only one among dozens of shoppers that was wearing a hat? Finally, I noticed a man and woman walking in my direction. The man was wearing a baseball cap. Finally, I thought to myself, people do wear hats in this country. But, as they got closer to me, I noticed the woman had something in her hand. She was carrying a map. Then I realized they were tourists just like me!
Slowly I began to realize that people who live in this European country don’t wear baseball type hats. No one! And because I had my baseball cap on, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I suspect people were looking at me thinking – this guy is a tourist. He is wearing a hat!
There is an interesting passage in the Bible in Mark chapter 14. Jesus instructs two of his disciples to go into the city of Jerusalem and make preparations to celebrate the annual Passover meal. When these two disciples ask him where they should go, he told them to look for a man who is carrying a pot of water on his head and follow him the to place Jesus had reserved.
This clandestine encounter always seemed to me like it was out of a Spy movie. “Look for your contact at the Train Station – they will be wearing a red carnation”. Jesus told his disciples to follow the man carrying water. Jesus had reserved an upper room so he and his followers could enjoy the Last Supper alone and undisturbed. He wanted to get away from the crowds and his critics. He knew the Cross was only hours away.
Why the man with the water pot? Because, in Bible times the women were usually who would go to the well to get water. In the culture in Israel, the men did not carry the water. When the two disciples went into the city, they would easily notice the man with the water pot on his head. He would stick out just like an American tourist wearing a baseball cap in a European city.
Our country and our community are a blend of many different cultures. This diversity of cultures and customs enriches our community and provides us with a remarkable opportunity to experience and appreciate cultures from around the world. The world has come to us!
I don’t know if you wear a baseball cap or if you transport water in a particular way. But, I hope you will take time to observe and enjoy the diversity of cultures in our community. You will be glad you did and they will, too.
During our tour in Israel, we were given the opportunity to walk through Hezekiah’s tunnel in the city of Jerusalem. Around 700 BC, the city of Jerusalem was threatened by the powerful Assyrian army. The Assyrians were one of the most powerful nations in the Middle East at that time. Their empire was centered where Iran and Iraq are today. Their capital was the city of Nineveh.
The Assyrians had already defeated the northern half of Israel and were poised to attack the southern area called Judah. Jerusalem was the capital of the southern kingdom. A large wall protected the city. A common military tactic in those days was to besiege a walled city until it ran out of food and water forcing the inhabitants to surrender.
King Hezekiah knew that a reliable source of water would be essential to withstand a long siege by the Assyrians. He directed his engineers and workers to dig a long tunnel from a spring outside the city to provide the water that would be needed to survive behind the city walls. It was a remarkable engineering feat to create this tunnel with just hammer and chisel.
The source of the water and the entrance to the tunnel outside the city walls was concealed so effectively that the enemy never found it. In fact, the source of the water was only discovered in the 1800’s! The tunnel had to be designed with a slight slope so that the water would run down hill and deep under the walls to bring water to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Water still flows in this tunnel today!
Tourists are allowed to walk through this tunnel beneath the city of Jerusalem. The water level is only one to two feet deep. The tunnel is only about the width of one person and barely high enough to stand upright. And, the tunnel is very dark. In fact, you can’t see the person walking in front of you. You can hear them, but you can’t see anything.
Thankfully, they sell small, inexpensive flashlights at the gift shop near the tunnel entrance. I usually don’t purchase trinkets and small souvenirs when we travel, but I was glad I spent $2 to by a flashlight. It was the best two dollars I have ever spent!
My friend and I were the last two people in our group to enter the water tunnel. We were glad we wore water shoes as we started to walk down the dark tunnel. We were delayed a bit as we put our shoes on and quickly fell behind our group. We could hear them ahead of us, but we couldn’t see them at all. The narrow tunnel twisted and turned in the darkness. The bottom and sides were rough.
I quickly learned that my friend had not purchased a flashlight. I had the only one. It was pitch black, but my little two-dollar flashlight really helped us navigate our 30 minute walk through the tunnel. It was amazing how one little light illuminated our path. I don’t know how we would have made it if we didn’t have that one little flashlight.
Jesus told his followers that they are “lights in this world” and that they were to “let their light shine” so that people would see their good works and be drawn to follow Jesus, too (Matthew 5:16). When you and I help others and serve those around us, we are like a small light in a dark world. Radom acts of kindness and thoughtful, encouraging words can brighten someone’s day and make their lives better.
We don’t need to be “in the spot light” and draw attention to ourselves. We are called to bring a little light into the lives of those around us. A little light goes a long way. Let me encourage you to look for ways to encourage and help people around you. Even a $2 flashlight can make a big difference in a dark place. You will be glad you did and they will too!
I suspect that the employees at the post office are the recipients of a lot of criticism. I know I have voiced my frustration about the long lines and slow service at the post office in the past. Maybe you have too.
I am sure that they hear many comments and words of criticism that are unkind and undeserved. Customers are always in a hurry and it seems like the lines moves slowly at the post office. I’m sure that the postal employees have a thankless task as they try to serve the needs of impatient customers.
However, I want to go on record and express my appreciation for the people at the post office in Diamond Bar. I was pleasantly surprised by the shorter lines and positive service. They deserve some recognition for their hard work.
We tend to ship things overseas several times a year. Birthdays and holidays required sending small packages with special gifts for wonderful grandchildren and family members.
My wife does most of the shopping. She asks our daughters who live overseas what the grandkids need or want for their birthdays or Christmas. They provide some helpful ideas and she sets out to find the right gift for each grandchild.
Sometimes, we order gifts online and have them shipped directly to their homes. Amazon, FedEx and UPS all offer delievery overseas. Many of the items are already in Europe, we just have to track them down and order the desired items.
But, some gifts need to be purchased locally and shipped overseas. We have found that shipping them through the local post office is most coat effective. Don’t misunderstand, the price to ship even a small box to Europe is pretty high. But, our post offfice has a pretty good record getting our packages to their oversea destination on time.
We have a very diverse community in Diamond Bar. People who live here are from all over the world. And, these wonderful people send letters and packages to their friends and families all over the world. I have seen postal employees patiently assist people from many different countries. They have helped me on a number of occasions to get our packages to our families in other parts of the world.
I hope you will exercise more patience the next time you go to the Post Office. And, I hope you will express your appreciation to the postal workers, too. They will be glad you did and you will too. Three cheeers for the people who work at the Post Office.
Thirty years is a long time. It is almost a third of a century. But, that is how long we have lived in Diamond Bar, California. I began my new job as the pastor of our church on June 1, 1988 – 30 years ago. My wife and kids stayed in Arizona waiting for our house to sell while I began work at the church. I lived by myself in a condo near Pathfinder and Diamond Bar Blvd. The condo belonged to a widow who was in poor health and she was living with her family. So I was on my own for about six weeks.
Although I missed my family during that time, I had a lot of time to get to know the community and people in the church. I was able to visit most of the church families and several of them invited me to dinner in their homes. In addition, I enjoyed delicious chocolate chip cookies and other snacks that came to my door during those days.
When our house finally sold in Arizona, I flew home to pack up and move to California. With four kids and a four bedroom house, we had a lot of stuff to move. We rented a U-Haul Truck – the biggest they made towing the biggest trailer they made! Friends in Arizona helped us load everything in to the truck and trailer and new friends in California helped us unload it. We could not have done it without their help.
We moved into the Daisy apartments (now the Hillside apartments) on Grand Avenue across from the Fire station. We unloaded some things into this two bedroom apartment, but most of our things would need to be put in storage. When I drove this giant truck and trailer down the exit driveway, it got stuck. The trailer hitch got caught on the pavement and the back wheels of the truck were lifted off the ground. The truck was stuck and we couldn’t move! It was quite a sight.
I ran over to the fire station and asked for help, but they didn’t know what to do either. Finally, I called the U-Haul hot line and they sent a tow truck from Sana Ana to help. The tow truck driver hitched a heavy chain on to the front bumper of the truck. The firemen blocked oncoming traffic and the tow truck dragged us down the driveway and on to Grand Avenue while I was sitting in the truck using the brakes so I wouldn’t hit the tow truck in front of me. It was a memorable start to our new life in Diamond Bar.
Our life at the Daisy apartment was fun. It felt like we were on vacation. It was a little crowded with four kids and two adults, but it had a pool, spa and tennis court. I would go to work each day and my wife and kids enjoyed “vacation” at the Daisy apartments!
I usually took Monday as my day off, so we began to go to the beach on Mondays. We usually went to Newport Beach and we usually stopped at Thrifty Drug store to get a scoop of ice cream on the way to the beach. This became a weekly routine. Eventually the kids began to invite friends to come with us. The summer of ‘88 was a summer to remember.
In the first book in the Bible (Genesis) there is the record of Abraham leaving his home in Ur near the Persian Gulf and traveling to a land called Canaan (Israel). The Bible says that Abraham went in faith, following the call of God on his life. Abraham packed up his family and his possessions and traveled to a land he had never seen before. It was a journey of faith.
We packed up our family and our possessions and traveled to a community we had never heard of called Diamond Bar. It was a journey of faith for us too. We are thankful that the Lord led us to this special community and to this special church.
Recently, my sister in law’s car broke down while she was driving on the 405 Freeway. Bummer! She had spent a few days with her grandchildren in San Diego and was driving home to in Bakersfield when her Nissan began to sputter and finally died in the middle of the north bound 405 Freeway!
Thankfully no one hit her as her car slowed to a stop in the middle of afternoon traffic. A helpful stranger pushed her car to the side of the freeway and she called 911 and AAA for help. The CHP office arrived quickly and parked his cruiser behind her car to protect her from the rush hour traffic. The tow truck arrived and asked her where she wanted to go for repairs.
While all of this is unfolding on the 405, my brother called me and asked if I could go help his wife. He knew she had broken down on the 405 Freeway but he was not sure exactly where she was. After a flurry of cell phone calls with his wife and with me, he decided to have her car towed to our house in Diamond Bar.
He asked me if I knew a good mechanic who could analyze the situation and if his wife could stay with us until her car could be repaired. Unfortunately, when I called a reliable mechanic that we often recommend, he was unable to help. He was overbooked with work and his co-worker was gone for the week.
As the tow truck slowly made its way in rush hour traffic toward Diamond Bar, I realized that it would drive past a Nissan dealer on the 60 Freeway. Maybe he should take the car there and ask them to diagnose the problem? I could meet my sister in law there and we could decide what to do.
We didn’t know how late the car dealer and service department would be open late in the afternoon, but they responded quickly and assured us that they could repair the car quickly. The diagnostics would cost about $125 plus the parts and labor. The service advisor encouraged us to go find some dinner and come back in about an hour. They would call us if there was any unexpected problems.
While we ate dinner, we prayed that the repairs would be done quickly and that it would not cost too much. My sister in law was hoping to get back on the road and get home so she could teach school the next day.
When we returned to the car dealer, we went to the cashier’s office to pay for the repair work. But, the cashier didn’t have the paper work so she told us to go back and talk with the service advisor. He explained that the repair was actually very simple. An air intake hose had come loose and they actually found the missing part laying on the engine. They simply put the part back together with a new hose clamp!
When we asked how much this cost he said, “No charge”! At first we weren’t sure we heard him correctly – did he say “No charge”? Yes – the missing part was still there and a simple hose clamp reconnected everything and the car was running fine. “No charge”. We were stunned and very thankful for this unexpected outcome. Amazing!
My sister in law was able to get back on the freeway and continue her journey home. She arrived safe and sound later that night. My sister in law had quite an adventure. From broken down in the middle of the 405 Freeway and towed 40 miles to a very helpful car dealer and back on the road without a scratch or paying a penny – pretty amazing.
By the way, did I tell you the name of the service advisor who was so helpful? His name was “Jesus”. No kidding! I thought Jesus was a carpenter by trade, but I guess he is in the car repair business too!
Spring has traditionally been the season for weddings. I often tell people that some of the happy parts about being a pastor are weddings and babies. And, some of the sad parts about being a pastor are deaths and divorce.
I have two requirements for doing a wedding – come to church and come to counseling. I encourage each couple to come to church together regularly before their wedding. In many cases, these couples already attend our church. Some actually met their fiancée at our church!
Sometimes I am asked to do a wedding for a couple in the community who do not attend our church. I actually enjoy this opportunity to get to know an engaged couples and I feel honored to lead their wedding ceremony.
When an engaged couple go to church together, they are developing and deepening their relationship with one another and with God. It is a healthy habit to develop early in their relationship and a habit that I hope they will maintain throughout their married life. I also encourage them to make time to pray together for one another and for their future. When a couple prays together, they are revealing their inner thoughts, concerns and dreams.
I also require the engaged couple to commit to spend time with me in premarital counseling. I have used a number of different books and resources over the years to help these couples talk through various topics that will impact their marriage. Topics include communication, finances, expectations, money, intimate relations and more.
We usually meet together 4-5 times before the wedding. Each couple is expected to do a homework assignment on one of the topics listed above and then we discuss their thoughts and ideas together. I always remind them that the more time and effort they invest in this process the more they will benefit from it. Some couples work hard and “do their homework” while other couples only put in the minimum effort required. Some don’t realize the long term benefits that can come from premarital counseling.
We always spend a session planning and discussing the wedding ceremony. I enjoy hearing about what the bride and groom would like to include in their ceremony that makes it unique and special for them. Sometimes I am able to offer a suggestion, too.
I always use the Bible in premarital counseling and in the wedding ceremony itself. I believe that God created the institution of marriage and that the Bible has a lot to say about marriage. In the very first book in the Bible, the author explains that God intended that “a man shall leave his father and mother and embrace his wife and the two will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:25). God’s plan is for the kids to grow up, get married and start a family of their own. It is both sacred and very special.
Weddings can be stressful for everyone involved. There are so many details to attend to and so many decisions that need to be made. But, I always remind these hopeful couples that a wedding is a day of celebration for the lucky couple, their friends and their families. Don’t let the stress and pressure detract for the celebration. You will be glad you did and your family will be too!
I have shared in previous articles how much my wife loves decorating our home during the various seasons of the year. We have boxes and plastic storage tubs full of decorations for spring and fall, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think we also have some patriotic decorations for the 4th of July.
Easter season has been a lot of fun this year. One of the things that our young grandchildren like to do is hunt for Easter Eggs around our house. I enjoy hiding the plastic eggs and love to watch them enjoy finding them.
We have also learned that hiding the eggs is just as much fun as finding the eggs. The four year old likes to hide the plastic eggs inside drawers and kitchen cabinets. The younger 15 month old likes to hide them in more conspicuous places like on a living room chair or on top of the coffee table.
The four year old likes to give hints about the location of the hidden eggs. She uses words like “you are getting warmer” and “you are getting colder” to help guide her younger sister and me to the hidden locations.
On the other hand, the younger one likes to actually show her older sister when she has hidden the eggs. She will walk right to the spot and pick up the egg and give it to her older sister.
It is a fun game to play inside or outside the house. It fills a lot of time and allows both girls to be creative in where they hide the plastic Easter Eggs.
However, one of the challenges of hiding and finding Easter Eggs is accounting for all of them. After we play this game several times, we realize that some of the eggs are still missing. I sometimes forget where I have hidden them and sometimes our granddaughters do too. Where did they go? Why haven’t we found all of them yet?
The other day, as we were going to bed, my wife and I discovered a plastic egg under our pillow. Another time, we found one behind the living room curtains. Leftover Easter Eggs keep popping up around our house days after the children had left.
Leftover Easter Eggs bring a smile to our faces and warms our hearts. When we come across a hidden egg, we are reminded of the special times we share with these two precious little girls.
I recommend that all grandparents keep a supply of plastic Easter Eggs year round. They provide a fun activity with little guests and create some memories that will last for a long time. You will be glad you did and they will too!