Bender Funeral, Mt. Vernon OH

It was a sad day and a happy day as I journeyed yesterday to The Salvation Army in Mount Vernon, Ohio, for the funeral of Major Wilmer Bender. Major and Mrs. Bender (that's her, above, greeting people before the service started) were my corps officers (pastors) at Cincinnati Citadel Corps, where they served from 1968-1974, if I remember correctly, and the whole family have been family to me since then.
Major Terry Wood (husband of the firstborn Bender, Susan) led the service, which also included tributes from Major Ron Dake, each of Major's children (Sue, Bob, and Bill), a vocal solo by granddaughter Danielle Bender, congregational singing, and more.
Family and friends from all over came to remember and honor this faithful man. I wiped away tears of grief and joy during the service.
A meal following the service gave me a fun chance to catch up with many friends, including the above crew, with whom I worshiped, served, and sometimes stayed out of trouble at Cincinnati Citadel (l to r, Major Gayle (Krider) Senak, Bill Bender, me, Jeanne (Kirby) Howard, Mrs. Major Helen Bender, Major Charlie Dietrick, Major Cathy (Kirby) Young, Major Susan (Bender) Wood, Major Bob Bender, Major Christine (Kirby) Dietrick). Many more good friends were there, and it was a joy--as it always is--to see the depth and blessedness of Salvation Army fellowship.

Reds Hall of Fame Grill at Kings Island

Last Saturday at Kings Island with my wife, the lovely Robin, and our daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids Calleigh, Ryder, and Avery, we stopped for dinner at the Reds Hall of Fame Grill, featuring Montgomery Inn wings, pulled pork, and ribs (Montgomery Inn is one of our favorite Cincinnati delicacies). Back when I used to bring Aubrey and Aaron to Kings Island every Friday, I would camp out in this location (when it was called "Wings") to write, and make the kids report back every couple hours (I think it started out as every hour, but they whined and complained until I agreed to every two hours). 
Like every Montgomery Inn location, this one has wonderful Reds and other sports memorabilia, including the above jerseys, a portion of the left field foul pole from Riverfront Stadium, game bats, etc. I had a gigantic bowl of chili (for $6.99!) and others had pulled pork, hamburger, chicken tenders, etc. Unlike any other Montgomery Inn location, the food wasn't to-die-for, but it was certainly good.

The Reds Hall of Fame Grill is located in "Rivertown" at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio.

Kings Island 2017, Mason OH

Back in the day (WAY back in the day), the lovely Robin and I held hands and rode rides as teenagers at Kings Island, the 364-acre amusement park northeast of Cincinnati in Mason, Ohio. In fact, I think I first visited (with my similarly redheaded friend, Chip Nance) soon after it opened in 1972. And, when my two children were in grade school and middle school, we bought season passes and visited about once a week. So it was a strange and wonderful experience to accompany our daughter, son-in-law, and three of our five grandchildren to Kings Island yesterday.
We arrived just after noon, after Avery and Calleigh had their first dance classes of the season (and Avery's first ever) in West Chester. Our first stops included the grand carousel, Old Coney, and the Eiffel Tower.


We eventually made it to Planet Snoopy (which used to be "Hanna-Barbera Land") and the kids rode ride after ride together.
What a blast it was watching Avery steer her first bumper car, around and around. And around.
Calleigh and Ryder took multiple rides on the smallest roller coaster.

We all had a blast, and stayed until the fireworks ended a little after 10 p.m. They wore us out. But it was worth every minute, and every lost brain cell from exhaustion.

Suite Night at Fifth Third Field, Dayton OH

I've had more baseball fun--and lived higher on the hog, so to speak--in the last couple months than ever before in my life, and last evening was just the latest episode.

The lovely Robin and I, along with our daughter Aubrey, son-in-law Kevin, grandchildren Calleigh, Ryder, and Avery, and our friends Patty and Ted, joined my friend Karl and his family and friends in a suite at Fifth Third Field, the home of the Dayton Dragons baseball club, a Class A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
It was a fine September night for baseball, punctuated by a full moon and a near-first-game-of-the-playoffs win for the Dragons. Alas, the game was lost, 3-2, in the ninth inning, but boy was it fun. The home plate umpire, Robert Nunez, sang his strike calls, operatically. At first the others in our party didn't believe me when I told them the sound was coming from the ump, but I finally got them to notice it. So fun. And the grandkids even got to see themselves on the big screen.
And the suite was sweet. Free pizza, hot dogs, burgers, cookies, fruit, and drinks, and fine company. And, as you see in the photo above, the grandkids loved sitting (and, despite frequent admonitions, rolling around) on the baseball-shaped stools.

Thanks again, Karl, for a wonderful experience.

Richmond Road Baptist Church, Hamilton OH

What a warm welcome the lovely Robin and I (and our daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren) enjoyed this morning at Richmond Road Baptist Church, just around the corner from our house.
We have many friends who have known and loved this church over the years, but we had attended only a memorial service there, a few years ago.
We were there for our friend Pastor Dewey Hughes's first Sunday as the new pastor of the church. We were welcomed personally by at least a half dozen people who recognized us as newcomers (I don't think it was hard at all). The choir sang and led singing on a couple hymns (above).
Two special musical numbers were sung by the composer, whose name I didn't catch (above). 
And Pastor Dewey delivered an outstanding message on "Rebuilding" from Nehemiah. Though we've been friends for more than a dozen years, I'd never heard him speak before, and I'm glad to say it was a great blessing. He "rightly divided the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15), presented strong applicational points, and struck a perfect balance throughout. 
Best of all, the response he had planned to his message invited practical and meaningful participation, and the congregation's reaction was moving and enthusiastic. We left refreshed and optimistic, and committed to praying for this church (which I've been doing already for a while now, as this post on another blog explains). 

Richmond Road Baptist Church is located at 2170 Hamilton-Richmond Rd., in Hamilton, Ohio. 

Hail, Camp Swoneky

The lovely Robin and I had the joy of worshiping with many friends at Camp Swoneky yesterday morning as the Swoneky Division of The Salvation Army gathered for Family Camp. 
It is always a blessing, and yesterday was no exception. From the opening worship dance celebration ("Shackles") to our friend Dave Kelly's excellent preaching and the final congregational song (The Founder's Song, "O Boundless Salvation"), we soaked up every minute, and even managed to identify the participants and band members, despite some of them looking shockingly like their parents or grandparents. 
We gathered afterward for a photo with our "session mates," those of us in the group who were commissioned and ordained together as "Proclaimers of Salvation" in 1980 (I know, I know, I don't look that old): from left to right, Gayle (Krider) Senak, Bill Riley, me, the lovely Robin, Janet (Berkhoudt) Ashcraft, Larry Ashcraft, Dave Kelly. In fact, Gayle, Bill, Robin, Dave, and I were sent off to training from that very spot a short thirty-nine years ago! (Larry and Janet had the poor judgment to enter training from other divisions). The morning worship was followed by a delicious lunch and rich fellowship, after which Robin and I reenacted our first kiss on the spot where it happened, and then headed off with full hearts.  


And This One Belongs to the Reds!

 Last evening was another fine August night for baseball. Mild temperatures, low humidity, good company, and another free ticket (thanks, Karl!) to the Champions Club level at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
This time the home team won! It's amazing what can happen when the Cincinnati Reds get some good starting pitching. The game included a couple close plays at home plate, a runner thrown out at second by Tucker Barnhart (and a "safe" call overturned on review), and a combined eleven strikeouts by Reds pitchers, which means I'll get a free LaRosa's pizza for lunch today!