Inviting the Bears

Dear Reader: You may have noticed an email asking you to confirm that you want to continue to follow my blog. I’ve left and moved to a self-hosting site. I’ve been working on the site (lots more to do, feel free to share your thoughts on how to make it better!) One of the “bumps” I’ve encountered is transferring your contact info to my new blog host. (The frustration of technology!!!) I would like to personally invite you to join me as we continue down this road of exploration in our faith journey. Please go to: and sign-up to receive email updates or to follow along as a wordpress fellow blogger.

I’ve chosen this story to share with you today to illustrate how I feel about your absence in my blogosphere. I pray that you are blessed, as I am by your support and comments.

An old man living in Alaska had lost all of his friends and family, and he felt sad to think that he was left alone. He began to wonder whether he should leave and start a new life in another village. But he worried, “If I paddle away to another village and the people there see that I am alone, they may think that I’ve run away from my own village because I was accused of some disgraceful thing.” Instead, he thought that he would go off by himself into the forest.

While this man was traveling along the woods the thought occurred to him to go to the bears and let the bears kill him. The village was at the mouth of a large salmon creek, so he went over to the creek early in the morning until he found a bear trail and lay down across the end of it. He thought that when the bears came out along this trail they would find and kill him.

By and by, as he lay there, he heard the bushes breaking and saw a large number of grizzly bears coming along. The largest bear led the rest, and the tips of his hairs were white. Then the old man became frightened. He suddenly realized he did not want to die a hard death and imagined himself being torn to pieces among the bears. So when the leading bear came up to him, he stood up and announced: “I have come to invite you to a feast.”

At that the bear’s fur stood straight up, and the old man thought that he was done for, but he spoke again Continue reading


Twelve Things I Learned In 2011

It seems appropriate on the last day of 2011 to share some of the lessons I’ve learned, and maybe even why they matter. I hope there are a few in here that will bless you during this next year. And I hope you will so kind as to share a few of the lessons you have learned this year with me and the rest of the bloggy readers here!

I won’t list these in any particular order. Mainly because they were (are?) equally important under the appropriate circumstances. So, here we go:

  1. Don’t start too many projects without finishing something you have already started. I know for many folks this is a “duh” kind of thought, but for so many of us we get caught up in doing good things – for our family, friends, the church, ourselves, the poor children in ______ (fill in the blank) – and the list goes on. Personally, when I realized I had so many projects going on that my supplies were multiplying before they could be put to use, I knew it was time to let go of a few things. That brings me to …
  2. When beginning to clean, start with the top of the pile. Starting at the bottom creates a bigger mess. (Trust me on this one!) This lesson also applies to daily life situations. Think about it.
  3. Spend the extra money on better quality toilet tissue. 🙂
  4. Enjoy the occasional nap, but don’t make it a habit. If it becomes a habit, much like everything else, you begin to take it for granted and you lose the appreciation for it.
  5. Spend time with friends and the people who matter in your life and tell them they matter to you. In the past month alone I’ve said good-bye to four people who mattered much to me. I don’t know if they ever knew how much they meant to me.
  6. Be prepared to do things spontaneously! 😀
  7. Stay up those extra few minutes before going to bed so you can load the dishwasher. There is something pretty nice to walking into the kitchen and seeing a clean sink. I find this helpful to Continue reading

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Sticky Communication Problem

The staff at an old people’s home were puzzled when one of their residents suddenly began gargling with an antiseptic mouthwash. They asked her why but all she would say was that something had happened at the post-office.

This is what actually occurred: 

The old lady, who rarely ventured out, had visited the post office to post a letter.

She bought a stamp, and since there was a long line of customers behind her, she stepped aside. She put her change in her purse, licked the stamp and put it on her letter. Despite pressing and thumping and licking it again, the stamp failed to stick.

“Excuse me, this stamp won’t stick,” said the old lady.

“You need to peel the paper off the back,” explained the clerk.

The old lady put on her spectacles, fiddled for a few seconds to peel off the backing paper – and then licked the stamp again.

“It still won’t stick,” interrupted the old lady again.

“It’s a self-stick stamp,” said the assistant.

“Well this one isn’t sticking at all – there’s something wrong with it,” demanded the Continue reading

Patience … Patience …

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

Still working on changes, upgrading for 2012! Appreciate your patience my friends.

Tiny Piru church has big history and movie-star looks

By Brett Johnson

The Piru United Methodist Church hangs on, comforted in its old age by an odd combination of colorful history and Hollywood.

It has survived earthquakes, windstorms and a dwindling congregation through its long years.

This holy morning, a large white candle on the altar will be lighted to signify the birth of Jesus Christ, member and church trustee Viola Acosta noted. Led by the Rev. Chuck Mabry, the congregation will follow a book of Methodist worship and sing hymns.

The Christmas morning message, Mabry said, will be one of joy and hope.

“The concept of hope,” he said, “is necessary to help the Piru church keep a sense of possibility and a reason for them to be there.”

Beyond that, similarities to most other churches end.

The church’s sanctuary is a time warp, packing more than 120 years of old school. It was built in 1890 as the linchpin of Piru founder and builder David Caleb Cook’s vision for the town as “a second Garden of Eden.”

It retains its original bell, rung via a rope that hangs behind the front doors and runs through a small hole in the ceiling up to the truncated steeple’s belfry. The original wooden seats — 12 across in eight rows, divided by a center aisle — give it the look of a schoolmarm’s classroom. The stained-glass windows are rife with brilliant yellows, reds, oranges, greens, purples and blues; some are originals and others have the names of Cook and other founding members etched in black ink on the bottom panes.

On cold winter mornings, parishioners wear blankets on their laps and legs during worship, as the sanctuary walls sport only two crude, inadequate heaters.

The pipe organ is rare, said by some to be one of just seven of its kind in the world, and dates back to the Civil War era. Unfortunately, much of it sits in disrepair in large wooden crates in the adjoining social room, still hamstrung from the damage it suffered in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Both the organ and the church are county historic landmarks.

The steeple used to be taller but was lopped off, likely in the late 1920s, for fear that strong Santa Ana winds would topple the spire, noted Floyd Legan Jr., who wrote a history booklet on the place in the 1970s.

Everything is old, even the massive bougainvillea bush outside — a good 10 feet tall, nearly as thick and in bright magenta bloom on a sunny, crisp December morning.

“It’s been there for years,” Acosta said.

Be it ever so crumbled and aging, the small church trundles on, barely.


It’s a tiny congregation. Acosta and others say barely a handful attend services regularly out of a membership that only numbers in the 20s; Piru, several noted, is now a largely Catholic community. Mabry is only a part-time minister.

Still, he talked of the church’s traditional role as a familiar fixture, a connection to the community.

“The number of participants has declined dramatically, but it is still a significant institution in Piru itself, partly because of its history,” Mabry said.

Asked how special the place is to him, the 88-year-old Legan replied simply that “you’ll find that my footprints have walked all over it, in more ways than one” for more than half a century.

“There’s a small group of us trying to keep it up,” Legan added. “It’s a very historic building. It has something to do with the early days, the days of the ranchos.”

Last Sunday, Mabry presided over four worshippers, including Legan. They prayed, made community announcements and sang such familiar hymns as “Joy to the World” and “O, Come All Ye Faithful.”

Maria “Chacha” Troyke stepped up to the altar and lighted the fourth advent candle, a symbol of purity, that day.

“I love it,” Troyke, who has lived in Piru most of her 57 years, said afterward. “It’s a joy to be here — this church and the meaning of coming here. The pastor gives you hope. It helps me with life — and the problems that come with life.”

She said she’s unemployed “like everyone else” — though fortunate that her husband has a job.

For Troyke and the others, the church is temporary refuge from the real world, especially during a season whose meaning is often buried amid Christmas commercialism.

The church, though, is not immune to secular forces: Around here, Hollywood helps pay the bills.

Or as Stephanie Acosta put it, “What really sustains the church is the movie and TV companies.”


Hollywood has fallen in love with the church’s classic look. So much so that Stephanie Acosta, Viola’s daughter and like her mom a church trustee, handles filming requests. The sign out front, right after detailing the church’s regular 9:30 a.m. Sunday services, lists Stephanie’s phone number.

The biggest part of its screen appeal, she said, is that it resembles an old-fashioned church from anywhere in the nation, but especially the South.

Earlier this year, the church stood in as a Texas parochial school for an episode of “Desperate Housewives.” Star Eva Longoria, Acosta said, signed the church’s guest book. HBO’s campy vampire series “True Blood,” set in Louisiana, has come to Piru and used the church to replicate a Bayou State place of worship.

The FX series “Justified,” Acosta noted, has used the church more than once for the show’s town hall meetings, set in Kentucky Appalachia.

This spring, the just-opened Matt Damon-Scarlett Johansson film “We Bought a Zoo” filmed at the church.

“We had a bear walking around here,” Acosta said matter of factly.

Willie Nelson set foot there several years back for one of the “Dukes of Hazzard” movies. Clint Eastwood filmed a “Space Cowboys” scene there more than a decade ago.

Piru has long been a Hollywood magnet, ever since part of the 1910 silent film “Ramona,” starring Mary Pickford, was shot in the area; filming at the church goes back at least several decades.

Viola Acosta and her sister, Claudina Root, laughed remembering the time Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton came to the church sometime in the 1980s to shoot a Christmas movie — in July. It was a typical summer day in Piru, with the temperature near 100 degrees.

“We were roasting outside,” Root recalled, “and everyone inside the church (for the scene) had to wear these heavy coats and scarves.”

Nevertheless, Root and the Acostas marveled at Hollywood’s ability to make it look like Christmas — with help Continue reading

To my readers and visitors …

Please forgive me if you have an interruption in reading the blog.

I am doing some upgrades and changes here and hope to make it easier to navigate and more user friendly. (YOU are the reason I write, so feel free to share your thoughts and comments!)

Although I will continue to add blog posts, I ask that you are patient with me for the next week until everything is running correctly.