This is what we do for the joy of the King,
For His peaceable Kingdom,
For a world in despair.
And this is why we bring any hope we can give,
Any bread from the table,
Any touch of His hand.
This is what we do.
This is where we go.
This is why we sing.
This is how we live.
This is who we are.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My swimming granddaughters . . .

I posted this video on my Facebook page . . . for those of you who aren't on FB, I thought I'd post it here as well.

This is Haley (5) and Lexi (3) swimming yesterday afternoon in the pool at our condo complex. They're both in lessons and they're both doing a great job.  I think they're really naturals.

Kristi also joined them in the swim, but had a bit of a "wardrobe malfunction" with her suit. She was in the original version of the video--along with her verbal commentary about the malfunction--I hadn't listened to the audio when I first posted, so wasn't aware of the blow-by-blow description.  If anyone happened to catch the video in the wee hours of the morning, they were treated to a very candid moment!  (Although there was nothing to see....just hear about!)  I deleted the original post first thing this morning.

So, enjoy the "G-rated" video!  :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Happy Michael Memory

There was an earthquake during the taping of this sketch.  You'll know when it happens...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day, 2009: A Personal Reflection

It is customary for us to take time on this sacred day (sacred meaning "set-apart") to honor our nation's fallen heroes.  Well, I certainly want to do that.  I'm eternally grateful for all the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice which continues to purchase the liberties we can enjoy and celebrate today.

On this particular Memorial Day I would like to take a moment to share a personal observation that came to me yesterday.  

It's completely true that our world would be a very different place if it weren't for the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who fought and died for our freedom.  In my case, I can honestly say I wouldn't be here without the sacrifice of one Florida native who gave his life in World War II.

Shortly before the outbreak of WWII, my mother fell in love with and married a young man who was a member of the First Christian Church in Kissimmee, FL, where her brother served as the pastor.  She and the young man, John Bratton, were enjoying the early experiences of married life when the United States entered the war.  John joined the army in the spring of 1942.  He was deployed to the European theatre that summer.  Shortly after his deployment, my mom learned that she was pregnant with my sister, Rebecca.

My sister was born in April of 1943.  John never met his daughter.  He was mortally wounded when attempting to liberate a French village on September 1, 1944.  A German sniper ended his life that day.  I never learned the name of that village, but I was always humbly awed by what occurred there that day.  Part of the awe came from the fact that his death occurred EXACTLY five years before my birth (9-1-49) and EXACTLY five years after Adolf Hitler started the whole ugly mess in Europe by invading Poland (9-1-39).

In no way am I "thankful" for his death.  I am not thankful for the way my mother's heart was broken.  I am not thankful that my sister never held her father's hand, felt his kiss on her cheek, or watched him shave.  I am not thankful that his dear mother (who I called Grandmother Bratton) or his sisters (my "aunts" Sarah and Martha) lost their only son and brother.  The grim fact, however, is that had he not died on that late summer's day, I wouldn't be here some sixty-five years later.

Yesterday I was watching two of my beautiful granddaughters enjoy dipping their bread in olive oil and vinegar at lunch--one of their culinary favorites. It hit me then that without John Bratton's sacrifice, they wouldn't be here, feasting on one of their favorite foods on the planet. Their mother wouldn't be sitting next to me, laughing and teasing her husband about little things. And of course, I wouldn't have been sitting there thinking about all this stuff.  It was a very, very sobering moment for me.

While I am not thankful for infantryman Bratton's death, I am deeply grateful for his sacrificial spirit.  And while I obviously never met him, I "remember" him and those he left behind.

The afternoon following my mother's memorial service, my sister and I went through all the things in my mother's little house.  One of the most poignant moments of the day occurred when we found her dad's flag that had been presented to Mother on the day of his funeral and internment.  My sister didn't know the flag existed.  My mother, for some unknown reason, had never shown it to her.  It was extremely moving to watch her tenderly caress those aged stars and stripes, realizing that it was probably the most intimate contact she'd ever had with her hero father.  

I salute you, John Bratton, and all the others who have given their lives for our country.  On behalf of all of my fellow Americans who have been privileged to be born out of time to "other" fathers and mothers because of your deaths, I say "Thank you."  

I look forward to meeting you some day, John.

Friday, May 8, 2009

MY FAVORITE THINGS (Senior Citizens' Version)

A friend sent me this wonderful lyric that Julie Andrews recently sang at a convention of the AARP in New York City.  She received a 4-minute standing ovation after the performance.  It's priceless!!


Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things. . . 

When the "pipes" leak, 
When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Lap robes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pains, confused brains, and no need for sinning,
Weak bones and fractures and hair that is thinning,
And we won't mention our short, shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache,
When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some Easter Memories

Here's a video of some of the highlights of Easter at our house.  Haley and Lexi help Lyn bake and decorate the traditional Easter Bunny cake.  The second half of the video is the little egg hunt we had here at the house Easter afternoon.  It was fun to see the girls search for the candy- and cash-filled eggs!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lyn's Visit With Her Parents

Lyn went to Florida this week to visit her parents who live in Lakeland.  She had a short but good visit.  While there, she managed to snap a few pictures of her mom and dad.  It's hard to believe that I am 15 years older than they were when Lyn and I got married.

Lyn's mom continues to play the organ for
the church they attend.  Here she's getting
ready for the weekend.

They know Lyn is Cracker Barrel deprived (since
we don't have any in California), so
they make sure she has at least one meal there
when she visits.

Considering that he's recently had a series of 
strokes and other health issues, I think
her dad (Francis Reid) looks AMAZING!
This pose is so familiar to me...just like when
he was in his 40s.

This is Billie Reid in her element...
She loves to sew and is an outstanding
seamstress and tailor.  Hopefully they
will have sewing machines in heaven.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Thanks To All The Forgotten Ones

This afternoon while I was driving to the office, a red wagon with a little blonde boy in it was being pulled across Main Street at the Yorktown intersection.  Seeing the kid in the wagon caused a very pleasant flashback to my boyhood.

When I was 4 or 5, I had my own "little red wagon."  It was called the D.R.S. Express--based on the initials of my name, Donald Ray Sewell. I don't really remember much about that wagon.  The most vivid memory about the D.R.S. is associated with the older kids (young adults?) who lived at the end of my street.  I think they baby sat for me from time to time--or at least watched out for me when I played outside.

I say it's a vivid memory, but that's really overstating the case.  It's actually a pretty fuzzy memory, like most people's early childhood memories turn out to be.  I don't really remember these neighbors much at all.  What they looked like.  Their names.  Their number (were there 2 or 3 or 4 of them?).  I can't even remember their gender--although I know one of them was a girl/woman.

I just remember having a wonderful time with them.  I remember feeling secure in their presence.  I remember my own wild laughter and the wind blowing in my face as they pulled and pushed me in their back yard and up and down the street.

It occurred to me today that it's probably a very healthy thing that I don't remember the details of those red-wagon moments and all the other day-to-day experiences of my earliest years. Usually the memories that are seared into young minds are associated with pain and trauma. I don't remember my nursery workers at church.  I don't remember any of the adults I encounterd as a toddler or a pre-schooler.  I don't remember them because they were good, helpful, unassuming, encouraging people who had my protection and well-being as their highest priority.  

In the crazy world we live in, I know there are thousands of children--very young children--who are forced to experience horrors and tragedies that will ever remain with them.  They will bear the scars of those life wounds as long as they live.  They will remember--either consciously or sub-consciously--and the memory will serve as a quiet echo of their early pain.

So when I saw that little boy enjoying his Saturday afternoon ride in his Radio Flyer wagon, I was reminded of how very blessed I have been to have enjoyed the protection and care of good people throughout my life.  I was reminded of how thankful I should be to all those people who were there to pick me up when I stumbled, wipe away my tears, change my diaper, rock me when I cried in the nursery, and give me exciting afternoon rides in my D.R.S. Express.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Girl Loves Chairs

Emily is a chair freak. If it's stuffed and kid-sized, she's all over it. Literally.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Easter Bunny Experience

Today was the big day:  taking the girls to South Coast Plaza for pictures with the Easter Bunny. We did this with Haley three years ago. For some reason, Lexi never went to meet the EB last year. Probably because she was so skittish with Santa the previous winter. We assumed Emily would be thrilled to have the experience, even though she's only 16 months old.  Uh, we were wrong.  (Much, if not all, of Emily's unhappiness was due to the fact that she had a lip-busting fall at home before coming to the mall.  That would have ruined ANYBODY'S morning!)

Famous South Coast Plaza was the scene of the event.  We got there early, so we didn't have to deal with long lines of kids and parents.  We actually had time to get our bearings and let the kids get the lay of the land.

Lexi was fascinated by the "rabbit hole."  The mall folks borrowed copiously from the Alice in Wonderland story...a white rabbit with an umbrella and a watch.  Definitely in a hurry...late for a very important date.

I caught this shot of Haley...she looked so grown up to me.

One of Emily's few happy moments of the morning.  Here's she's sporting her edgy Converse tennies.  So crazy cute.

Lexi and Haley chilling for a few minutes while the parents picked the professional shots. Haley couldn't resist the funny faces.

Sweet sisters. Beautiful picture.

This was just not Emily's year to be a bunny fan.
Tears or no tears, she's a cutie!

The money shot...Happy Templeton girls,
not-so-happy Johnson girl.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ah, Those Were The Days

Lyn's sister sent this picture to us today...It was taken in the very early years of our marriage. Lyn said she never remembered me looking like this.  Gosh, I was skinny.  Isn't Lyn pretty?  I really see Haley in my picture here.  Fascinating.  The lovely brunette is Lyn's younger sister, Judi.  She and her husband John live in Cincinnati.  They have five children and 6.5 grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My girls!!

Last week Lyn took Haley and Lexi up to the Santa Ana Zoo to meet Jennifer, Brian, and Emily. That's where this pic was taken.  I just love imagining appropriate captions for this!  Emily really looks passionate about Lexi's treat.  I don't even know what flavor Icee it is, but it surely appeals to Miss Ems.  I think Lexi is ready to defend her cup to the end!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama Fingers????? Yuck!!

Some German poultry company has actually started packaging and selling "Obama Fingers." They claim they didn't realize the racial undertones of the name!!! Give me a break!!  It's just disgusting on so many levels. I'm not a huge fan of the president, but I think this is just wrong, going WAY too far.  I've always hated the term "chicken fingers," because if just seems weird to me, but OBAMA FINGERS?  Mercy, mother!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ford, I Lift Your Name On High

Found this funny video today....
What happens when corporate America starts stealing the worship songs from our churches.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Miss You, Dad

My dad, Curtis Robert Sewell, went home to be with the Lord 17 years ago today.  I love this picture, even though the funky glasses make him look a tad bit demented!  He was a HUGE tease, and always had a funny comment to make about the little everyday things of life.  In this picture, you can tell by the upturned lip that he was on the verge of a big smile and a typical one-liner.  On this occasion, it probably would have been, "Don't break your camera, Son." Note the JBC logo over his shoulder.  My parents both loved Johnson Bible College--it was the "holy land" in their minds.  (It is to most of us who were ever connected to it in any way.)

When I was in 9th grade, dad used to take me to school in his truck. (That year my high school was temporarily re-located while a new campus was being built.)  I'll never forget a comment he made to me one morning during our commute. I was angry or frustrated with my mom about something or other.  He didn't argue with me.  He didn't threaten me.  He just reminded me that my mother loved me more than life itself and how I should thank God every day that He'd allowed me to be her son.  There were tears in his eyes when he said it.  I not only forgave my mom for whatever she'd done, but I had a wonderful confirmation of how much he loved both of us.  It's truly a blessing to know that even if you lack a lot of "stuff" in life, when you are loved, you have more than enough.

I love you, Dad.  I miss you like crazy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Weiner Poopie Revisited

I posted this last year when Haley and Lexi were so sick.  Thank God, they're doing great this February.  But since our ECONOMY is so sick this year, I think it's worth revisiting this amazingly funny video. I laugh out loud EVERY time I watch it.  I hope you enjoy it--again!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Valentine Baker

Saturday afternoon Haley and Lyn whipped together some delicious chocolate cupcakes with pink and white frosting. The joy, of course, was in the process. Here's the proud bakery chef! In the video (below) you can get a "taste" of the process. Looks like they had fun. (Lexi was upstairs taking her afternoon nap.  Next year, she'll probably be in the thick of the baking project!)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Our Little Valentine - Piano Prodigy??

We had the privilege of having Emily spend the night with us last night. Jennifer and Brian were going to have a Valentine's Dinner out with a couple of close friends last night.  They don't get many opportunities to get out without Emily, so we were happy to "take her off their hands." Kristi and her girls came over for dinner (assorted goodies from our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, Basilicos) and some good "cousin time."  Haley and I worked on her Legos Star Wars battleship for a while.

This morning, Lyn got some great footage of Emily playing the piano in our living room.  I'm attaching it here...when she's a famous pianist we'll have this as a reminder of the "early days."  It may be boring to some of you, but I love watching it--big surprise!  :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

HIKING--A New Passion??

Today was a great day.  My friend Duane Weiss and I met at the church at 8:30, and headed up the 605 freeway toward the San Gabriel mountains.  We drove to Sierra Madre and up the mountain to take one of the trails at Chantry Flat.  We were so close to civilization, but might as well have been on a deserted island.  It was wonderful!

This is part of the beautiful mountain range
known as the San Gabriel Mountains.
I felt like I was back in the Smokies!

I'm standing by the stream that makes
its way down from high in the mountains.
We crossed the stream about 10 different
times as we followed the switchback trail. 
(I only stepped into the water once when I
slid off a slippery rock.)

A beautiful view by the parking lot where
we began the tour.  It was SUCH a gorgeous
day to go on a mountain hike!

Even though it's technically winter,
there were some beautiful flowers and 
blooming trees announcing that
spring was on the way.

Looking down at the stream from
one of the high points of the trail.

We were TOTALLY cut off from communication
today.  Absolutely no cell reception.  There was 
no electricity up the mountain, even though
there were little "settlements" of cabins that
people live in.  (They haul up supplies
on mules!)  There were these periodic emergency
phone shacks that you could make 911-type calls
to the outside world.  I would definitely NOT
have wanted to have a heart attack today!

Here's Duane checking out the instructions about
how to activate/use the emergency phone.

Even though we were in a lot of shade
on the trail, it could have been REALLY
shady if the trees had their summer foilage.

Another great view.

This was looking straight down.  One
misstep would have the hiker dropping
like a rock for about 150 feet.

Here's Duane on the trail.

As we came toward the end of our 6.5 mile hike,
we were able to look down at the parking
lot where Duane's truck (the little white
speck in the distance) was parked.