Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gantenbeins' 2013 Not-So-Annual Christmas Letter

You are right: There was not a "Gantenbeins' 2012 Annual Christmas Letter." We were waiting for something in particular to develop. It did, so let's get right to it with an abbreviated timeline.

~Jim and Cathy turned 60!
~May 26 — On our 38th anniversary. We met Shane Calhoun and five minutes later Alison surprised us by showing up at our front door for a visit. We began to wait for that relationship to develop.
~September - October — A rare and cherished blessing as we were able to visit with each of our children twice while on vacation.
~Christmas — The whole family was home for Christmas! (The picture at the top of this page.) We continued to watch the relationship develop between Alison and Shane.

~March 16 — Cathy and I began the Ideal Protein Diet.
~Spring — A lot of emails, text messages, and phone calls between Alison and us regarding possible venues for the not-yet-official upcoming event.
~May 5 — Alison sent us the picture that officially confirmed that the relationship had developed as all had hoped and expected.
~June — David came for a brief visit while attending his high school 10-year reunion.
~August 9 — Alison was shocked when she saw me two days before the wedding. I had not told her about the weight we were losing.
~August 11, 2013 — Shane and Alison were married!

~November 23 — I finished my weight loss after dropping 100 pounds. Cathy continues to slim down.
~Christmas — The whole family was home again!

And now, for updates on the family:

Aaron and Denise continue to live and work in Winston OR where Aaron is Associate Pastor of Community Baptist Church and Denise works hard to develop the Children's ministry. This summer they were heavily involved in World Changers as their church hosted this event. We are praying for Denise's family. Her father is battling cancer.

Shane and Alison continue to settle in to married life in Ontario CA. Shane is on faculty as a counselor at California State University, San Bernadino. Besides each other, they enjoy their dogs, Cody and Dexter, their pallet garden, and Shane's pottery.

David continues to live and work in Phoenix where he stays extremely busy as Student Pastor of Foothills Baptist Church. He is still single but is not opposed to changing that status should a relationship develop with the right lady. We are not opposed to it, either!

Cathy and I are pretty much the same as in our last Christmas letter except we are two years older and many pounds lighter. We are looking forward to having grandkids…someday…maybe…nothing yet… but are happy we are able to be with the grand dogs.

Even though this has been relatively brief, our lives are very full. We thank God for His increased blessings and for your friendship (or "relationship" for those who have the distinction of being family). May 2014 be a year of blessings for you, as well.

In His love,

Jim and Cathy

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Coming To God's Rescue?

Where is it written in God's word that God needs, wants, or calls for us to defend Him? When Paul talked about his defense of the gospel in Philippians 1:16, the word "defense" is the word for apology as in "apologetics" which is intelligent reasoning, not verbal warring. Even the psalmist called on God to defend (plead) His own cause (Psalm 74:22).

If Phil Robertson is never allowed back on television again, neither God nor His kingdom will suffer. For that matter, neither will Phil Robertson. So far, he appears to be one of the few voices not crying "foul!" Granted that my exposure to his words is limited but what I have seen and/or read indicates that the patriarch of Duck Dynasty continues to bear witness to his Lord without saying, "Shame on you, A&E!"

I have never looked to A&E or any other broadcast company as a guardian of the faith. In fact, when a person of faith is targeted, as Phil Robertson has been, we should praise God for allowing everyone to see the polarity between pleasing God and pleasing the world. The Holy Spirit did not inspire the Apostle Paul to write 2 Corinthians 10 for nothing!

On a personal note: When the SBC and other groups called for a boycott of all things Disney in 1997, I went the extra mile and tried to learn as much as I could about just how evil Disney was. I accomplished this by personally examining every single ride and show at Disneyland and, later, the newly opened California Adventure Park. Just to make sure, I repeated this process numerous times until the boycott ended in 2005. I suppose I will approach the current outrage against A&E over the treatment of Phil Robertson with equal alarm.
Now, if you will excuse me, all our kids are coming home for Christmas and I can do something meaningful about that!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Liberate Yourself Politically

The wonderful people of Kitsap Lake Baptist Church in Bremerton know that I try hard to keep politics out of what we do as God's people. As a rule, I do not discuss politics. There are more important things.

Many years ago, I made a decision: I will no longer be aligned with any political party. That decision has produced numerous benefits. Here are a few:
  • I am free from "loyalty" to any political party or agenda.
  • Distinctions between a conservative political view and a biblical view become much clearer.
  • The responsibility God places upon His own people to repent appears much greater.
  • There are more prayers "for" than "against" (things, people, etc.).
  • I am more inclined to search through information on all the candidates and issues to see who supports God's views instead of a political stance.
  • I care much more about God's truth and much less about worldly ideologies.
  • National patriotism is always subject to and filtered through patriotism to God's kingdom.
  • Arrogance cloaked in false piety is quickly evident and disgusting…especially in myself.
  • The two greatest commandments are more in our heads than in our lives.
  • Satan loves politics.
  • My "non-alignment" has made my involvement more meaningful.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Was Alison Surprised?

In our family, we like to surprise one another (in a nice way, of course) like when we met Shane for the first time and suddenly Alison showed up at the front door on our 38th anniversary.

This video was taken as I walked up to Shane and Alison two days before their wedding (hence the shaky camera work). They had not seen me since Christmas and did not know I was losing weight. So, was she surprised? You be the judge.

What do you think? Is she just a great actress? Personally, I think it was a true "bazinga!"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Five Months and 18,000 Miles Later

The previous blog was posted five months ago on March 26, 2013. Ten days earlier, we tried starting a new diet (two days after Cathy's birthday). I don't like diets. I don't believe in diets. I do like eating.

Since then…

We planted the garden in May, hoping it wasn't too early.

On June 5, following Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study, Cathy and I started driving to Oklahoma. We stopped in Grand Rapids, SD, going to Mt Rushmore Thursday night, crashing in a comfortable motel, going back to Mt Rushmore on Friday morning to see it in the daytime, and then continuing on our journey, arriving in Enid at 4:22am on Saturday. Cathy's sister, Diane, and her retired husband, Tom, were going on a mission trip to Mexico and we were staying with her mom for part of the time they would be gone. We were also able to spend a short amount of time with Cathy's siblings and their spouses before heading to Branson for a couple of relaxing days, taking in a concert by the Sons of the Pioneers, watching The Shepherd of the Hills play, visiting Silver Dollar City (a favorite spot), and enjoying a dinner show on the paddle wheeler Branson Belle while it cruised around Table Rock Lake. On Sunday afternoon, the 16th, we began the trek homeward, driving through the night again (and an intense lightening and rain storm), seeing some of Yellowstone National Park as we quickly drove through it, and stopping to spend the night at a comfortable motel in Bozeman, MT on Monday night. On Tuesday, we hit the road again, stopping at Spirit Lake, ID to spend a couple of nights with new friends, Paul and Darla Calhoun (more will be revealed about that connection later), allowing Jim to go fishing with Paul on the lake. We arrived home on Thursday night in time to get a good night's sleep before having my folks, my sister, my niece, my nephew-in-law, three of their daughters, my nephew, my niece-in-law, and their three daughters over for a late BBQ lunch before all fifteen of us headed for the Mariners game. Then we rested and tended the growing garden.

July was very busy at work, at church, and with an exciting upcoming event that explains the connection with our new friends, Paul and Darla Calhoun. It was also a pretty expensive month as the upcoming event further drained our financial resources.

On August 3, Cathy left me…but only for five nights. She flew down to be with Alison who was grateful for Mom's help. You might think that driving through the night three times on our trip to Oklahoma would have permanently cured this 60 year old of such foolishness. That's why no one pays you to think. We had a church prayer meeting on August 7 specifically for our Vacation Bible School beginning the next Monday. After that prayer meeting, I drove south, stopping in Winston, OR around 1:20a.m. to pick up Aaron and Denise. Together, we enjoyed the spacious confines of our Prius for the next 15-16 hours until we arrived in Ontario, CA where I was soon reunited with Cathy and her best friend, Cathy Herron, who had also flown to help Alison out. After Cathy and I had a wonderful meal with dear friends from my 7th-9th grade years at Heritage High School, Aaron, Denise, and I collapsed for the night. On Friday, the 9th, Aaron and I remained in a "do not disturb" mode until that evening when we all went over to see Alison and go out to dinner.

Why did Alison need so much help? Besides just being Alison, she had a very legitimate reason and it was related to our new friends, the Calhouns, and when I say "related", I'm speaking literally. As it turns out, Paul Calhoun has a son, Shane. You can call him Dr. Calhoun. We now call him "son" just as the Calhouns call Alison "daughter". Yes, on August 11 our baby girl and Shane became husband and wife! On Tuesday, the newlyweds started their honeymoon in Panama (almost over now), Cathy flew home, and Aaron, Denise, and I began the long drive north. I finally got home during the wee hours of Wednesday morning, in time to rest up and attend the final two days of Vacation Bible School.

Do you remember that part, way back in the beginning of this long post, about starting another diet? When we went to see Alison and Shane and go out to dinner on the Friday before the wedding, I was the last one out of the car and the last one Alison saw. Her reaction was priceless and caught on film. Like her brothers, she had never seen her dad this size. I had lost around 70 lbs at that point. Cathy had surprised Alison earlier when she flew down and was able to surprise Aaron and Denise when we arrived on Thursday evening by car. David had seen us just a few weeks earlier when he flew home for his high school graduation 10-year anniversary.

As of this date, I have lost a total of about 81 lbs and am below 220. It seems very strange to go from wearing "XXXL" shirts to being able to wear just plain old "L". I don't know how much more I will lose but I hope I can get to a satisfactory weight and go into maintenance mode soon…

because I AM HUNGRY!!! (And I'm tired of buying new belts.)
Isn't she beautiful?!!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thanks For The Label But, No Thanks

I think Linus had reached the end of his his blanket with the non-sense dished out by others. I am sympathetic.

Cathy and I have raised three children. Though they are not quite perfect, I am more proud of them than I ever was of myself at their ages, and I would still give my life for any or all of them even if I totally disapproved of what they say or do. That includes my wonderful daughter-in-law. (I hope, someday, to have a son-in-law and another daughter-in-law added to that group.) By the way, whenever we disapprove of each other's actions, we never are afraid of each other. The love is always stronger than the faults. (Secret: We know God is real and that the Holy Spirit works to convict us of sin and convince us to change. We believe if people resist God's leading/urging but not our's, then something is probably wrong with us.)

My deep appreciation to all of you who do not question the love we have for our children nor criticize the values we maintain. It is probably safe to say that you know we have the same regard for all people.

Given that reality, it grieves me when any friends or acquaintances act on the apparent assumption that we are ignorant, fearful, and hateful because we do not agree with them or their stance on an issue. I think it says less about us than it does about them.

Without getting into a litany of individual sins, I believe sin is wrong and always separates us from God who can not look upon sin. That everyone sins does not negate the fact that we should not sin. The action that pleases God, when we sin, is confession and repentance. This is in stark contrast to tolerance. Tolerance is not agape love. Tolerance is loathing because it carries no hope for holiness.

Jesus said much about agape love. Two of those things were, "If you love me, keep my commandments," and the affirmation of "Love your neighbor as yourself." By placing God first—which does precede "love your neighbor as yourself"—I can properly love others.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Root of Discouragement

Discouragement can come from a variety of causes. In a special called business meeting, the church voted 18 to 6 to approve a small group ministry. There was much discussion, including many questions.

There were those who felt the wording in the ministry overview, leadership guide, and small group guide were too harsh. Maybe they are right. That was not cause for discouragement.

One or more questioned the need for such a ministry. After all, we already have Sunday School. At least one wondered why we needed to make it a ministry of the church… Why can't folks just do it without it being an official ministry of the church? Those were not cause for discouragement.

More than one expressed their feeling that the overview and guides showed a ministry that was too demanding on people, requiring too much of them. At least one felt that the ministry would create a "church with the church." Those were not cause for discouragement.

All of those and some others were genuine concerns and questions. We not only expected it, but we hoped for it. We need to know how what we have been working on for many months is perceived by others and where we have fallen short in our expression of the ministry. Apathy, manifested by no questions or discussion would have been extremely discouraging.

The cause for discouragement boils down to this: It was stated, more than once, that we believed God was leading us to do this as a means of making disciples and building up the small corner of His kingdom and His Church known as Kitsap Lake Baptist Church. Yet, it did not make a difference to those who were opposed* to it. They might as well have said, "Let's leave God out of this." That church members I love and have known for nearly seven years would behave that way in the heat of the moment was not the discouragement either. That Satan could maintain such a foothold within the body of Christ…that is discouraging!

I am the Pastor and part of my job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Equipping them includes making them aware of the enemy's activity and being on guard against it. So now, Satan is accusing me of being a failure. But, I recognize the discouragement is from the evil one and I choose to rejoice that God is doing something among us which Satan is actively trying to stop!

Finally, 75% of those who voted were openly in favor of it. A number of them expressed their belief that it would grow the church and help bind us together as a church family. That was very encouraging!

*Note: There is a difference between having questions and being opposed. Neither are bad in and of themselves, but there is a difference. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We Have Been Preparing for "The Big One"

Extrapolating information from the census bureau, the current population of California is estimated at approximately 38 million people. That is a lot of people. It is nearly 12 million more than the second most populated state of Texas, and almost twice the population of New York with the third highest. It is also a huge variety of people. Some have made our nation a better place and some have made it a worse place.

What if the Big One hit (you know, the big earthquake that is long overdue and causes special effects gurus to get all giddy just thinking about it) without warning and it was bigger than anyone every expected? What if all those border lines on maps were actually fault lines and the Big One caused the entire geographic entity known as California to separate from the other contiguous forty-seven states, becoming the floor of the Pacific Ocean's expansion eastward? Thirty-eight million people gone.

How many of them would we miss? Would our nation be any worse off? After all, there would be no recovery efforts, no disaster relief, and no epidemics spreading to the rest of us because the Golden State and all its contents would be gone—sealed under numerous thermoclines of cold salt water. And just think: The federal government would no longer have the financial burden of the federally maintain items such as prisons, interstates, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, etc.

Apart from the personal loss of irreplaceable loved ones, the nation as a whole would move on. Some places would even thrive. After all, someone has to take up the slack when we lose Hollywood, the Central California bread basket, numerous military installations, Yosemite, and the Dodgers. Las Vegas alone would probably grow ten-fold, building enumerable beach front resorts and amusement parks to compliment its current money magnets.

Oh, sure, some of you are thinking, "How can you be so callous about the loss of 38 million people? Don't you have a heart?" Of course I do but, trust me, we will get over it. We have been hardening our hearts and consciences for this loss since January 22, 1973. Forty years of ignoring, defending, and even funding the loss of 55 million human lives has left us in great shape to ignore this smaller sum. So we really shouldn't get all worked up over the potential loss of another 38 million, should we?

Yesterday, January 22, 2013 marked the fortieth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion in the U.S.A. and there have been over 55 million "legal" abortions* since then. 55 million. FIFTY-FIVE MILLION!!! Those are people…babies who were never given a choice…EVER! And we sing and say, "God bless America!" Can anyone come up with 55 million reasons that are each more important than each of the more than 55 million completely innocent individuals we have murdered? I have not been able to come up with even one.

Out of deference to all the precious citizens of California, my home state and my daughter's current state, I would suggest that we could substitute the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, and Indiana. There probably isn't a remotely feasible scenario that would wipe them out at the same time, leaving the rest of the nation in tact but their combined populations would be pretty close to California's, and I don't think I have any close relatives in those states so… Oh, wait…some of you do have relatives in one or more of those states. Actually, I doubt there is any possible combination of states by which we could make this less personal (and I'm sure not going to include Washington State). But we can try. We've spent forty years trying to convince ourselves that it isn't personal.

That we do not sense a nationwide shame only increases the reality of that shame.

*The abortion count is based on data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. (

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Ended In The Twilight Zone

It really wasn't a bad year. In fact, it had some remarkable moments. Among them:
  • We were able to see all of our kids at least three times, including Christmas.
  • There was a Pixar Animation cruise.
  • Alison surprised us (not easy to do) by appearing on our anniversary (and we got to meet her boyfriend, Shane).
  • All of the planned outdoor work, including the extra projects, was finished before the end of Summer.
  • The Seahawks are in the playoffs!
There were also some sad moments. I lost three uncles (all of my mom's brothers) within six weeks.

There was a major stressful event: Mom had open heart surgery one week before Christmas (she's doing well).

But there was one event at the end of the year that transported it into The Twilight Zone. (cue music)

While decorating the house for Christmas, it became clear that we needed to move the iRobot vacuum cleaner upstairs so it would not eat the faux snow of the Christmas village or try to stuff itself with the Christmas tree skirt (both occurred in 2011). So, the Hoover went downstairs and the iRobot went upstairs. I set two "sentries" in order to keep it from roaming into the two guest rooms or the den and just focus its efforts on the master bedroom area. Here is where it started to get weird. I started it (a difficult process requiring the pressing of the center "clean" button), it backed away from its docking station, turned right and immediately bumped into the cedar chest. No problem because it is programmed to navigate around obstacles so it began to test the territory for open space in which to run and clean. Having found a clear path, it quickly moved forward…limping.

Yes, it was LIMPING!

I pressed the "clean" button to stop it and then the "dock" button. Instead of moving forward, it said, "Please, clean the dirty brushes." Really, it said that. In the nearly five years we have had that machine, it has never said a word. Now, we move it from its normal spot and it starts limping and talking! I'm not sure if it was ordering me around or just whining but it wouldn't run so I cleaned the brushes and started it again. It was still limping. I figure if dog-to-human years are 7-1, then perhaps robotic-vacuum-cleaner-to-human years are 15-1 and it has a right to limp. But on the next scheduled cleaning (yes, it runs on a schedule), it just sat there. When I tried to manually start it, it gave the same "clean the dirty brushes" routine. I did it again and started it. It limped and stopped. Then it said, "Please, clean the right wheel and remove any debris."


I spent over an hour taking that machine apart and cleaning everything. Upon reassembly, it still limped but seemed to work okay otherwise. Now all the decorations are put up for the next eleven months so I decided to take the iRobot back to its accustomed hiding spot downstairs under the china cabinet. 

Now it runs perfectly again! No limping. No talking.

It didn't even say, "Thank you!" But that carpet had better be clean when we come home from church on Wednesday night or we're going to have words.