Friday, October 31, 2008

October 31 – “Fractured Family”

Remember that doll I mentioned awhile back?  The one that belonged to my grandmother?  The one we were always so scared of when we were kids?  We ran across that one again.  And its leg was broken.  Not just cracked, mind you, it broke off and was in two or three separate pieces.  Chris gave one of her patented sighs, and quietly added the doll to the stack of "To be repaired's."  I asked her how she planned to attack that problem – with superglue?  She answered, "I will try.  But she is very brittle in a lot of places.  She's one of those that will just have to sit by herself on the shelf – out of harm's way."


We didn't go to Galveston at all today.  Instead we went and picked up my Mom and headed for Mansfield to visit Zakary (and his parents).  It felt very strange to "pick up my Mom" instead of just hopping into the Explorer and hitting the road.  She's just supposed to be with us already.  My brother and sister-in-law have been wining and dining her royally since she went to stay with them.  Manicures.  Pedicures.  New clothes.  New shoes.  Massages.  Hairdos.  She is a pampered woman.  I guess that had a part to play when she said to me the other day, "You and Chris have too much to do to bother with the likes of me.  I'll just stay with Jay and Fran for awhile."  Part of me said, "You're right.  We are at the house every day.  There's nothing there that you can do.  It would be really boring."  But a bigger part of me said, "Ow, that hurts.  You are our family.  You belong with me and Chris – and Betty – and Seaside – and Galveston.  We finally moved into a house where you can join us, and now you don't want to?"  Of course I didn't say anything.  But she is coming home with us "for a few days, at least" after Mansfield. 


You know what?  It feels like our little family has a little fracture.  Not completely broken, just a bit of crack.  A hairline fracture.  Enough to know it hurts.  What do you do with a family when it gets broke?  Can't put a cast on it.  Can't rest it.  Can't "take two aspirin and call me in the morning."  What can you do?


I found an answer.  I found it when we went to Panchos and ate together.  I saw it when I went with Josh to WalMart to pick up a prescription for Christi, a clown nose, and six pumpkins.  Hey, it was Halloween.  Anyway, in our haste to get the pumpkins loaded and the clown nose tried on, we left the prescription in the shopping cart.  In the parking lot.  Some nice shopper found it and turned it in.  It was there when we gave away candy while sitting outside, because all the power went off in the neighborhood.  Hey!  That kind of felt like home.  And it was there in force when Zak got dressed for bed and began running through the house, back and forth, and around and around in circles.  How could he do anything else?  He was wearing superman PJ's!


The answer to a fractured family?  Family.  It helps to know I'm not the only one who leaves important stuff in shopping carts at WalMart.  It helps to know that somewhere kids still go trick or treating, so MeeMaw can sit out in her witch hat and give away candy.  It helps to see kids still wearing superman PJ's and getting wound up right at bedtime.  Family helps family when it's time to heal, when it's time to process circumstances, when it's time to … just be there.


Ephesians 2:19 says, "You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household."  God's household.  That means his family.  He knew.


Father, thank you for my family.  For Chris.  For Mom.  For our boys and their wives.  For our grandkids.  And the two still "cooking."  And our extended family – the others who don't live with us when we have a place to live.  Thanks for our Seaside family and for those in your family who we have been meeting since the storm.  Heal.  Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October 30 – “Officially … Rejected”

Like most of the rest of Galvestonians after Hurricane Ike, we registered online for assistance from FEMA while we were still evacuated.  We waited anxiously for the FEMA adjuster to finally arrive and make his determination – the decision that would solve all our problems – the commitment of as much money as we needed to rebuild no matter what.  And from what I have heard, like most Galvestonians, we received our two months rental assistance (that's $1428).  And then we were told that since our house was "habitable," we would receive no more assistance.  Basically, "Lots of luck with your insurance."


As the days turned into weeks, a second and then a third FEMA inspector came by.  The last one saw inside our house and encouraged us to go to the FEMA pod and get the help we obviously deserved. 


We also faithfully filled out our application for a loan from the Small Business Administration, waited once again for an adjuster, and finally heard the decision, "You are officially rejected for this loan.  But you really need to go to the FEMA pod and apply for a grant." 


OK, so today we went to the FEMA pod, all excited and ready to see some serious aid from the government.  We told them our situation and wondered how they would help (other than the water bottle they brought each of us and the disinfectant they gave us as we left).  We waited again – this time for a very slow computer to find our file.  Finally it was there on the screen.  He asked if we had received anything from FEMA yet, and we noted the $1428.  He asked about our insurance and wanted to make a copy of everything.  We didn't have everything.  Not a good sign.  He asked if we had received any assistance from Windstorm.  Yes.  Just this past week, in fact.  Apparently not a good answer.  An honest one, yes, but not a good one.  He all but closed up his laptop.  He still made a copy of the few papers I did have, but now, instead of offering more help, they assured us that we would have to repay the $1428.  Not right away.  But they would seek us out and get the money.  There was nowhere we could hide.  See, ever since Katrina, FEMA has been hot on the trail of criminals like us.  Fraud. 


If I could have been assured that it would find its rightful place in the grand governmental financial machine, I would have written them a check right then.  But they assured me I could wait.  It might take a few years, but someone would come for the money.  Probably not federal marshals, but someone.  


I sure didn't know I was a fraud specialist.  A felon.  A low-life scum criminal.  Just didn't know.  I thought I was an evacuee trying to get back into his house.  Sorry.  My bad. 


The help they gave, they promised to take away.  Kind of reminded me of

Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."  Or maybe Matthew 28:20, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."


Father, thank you that when we are rejected by the government, we are accepted by the Church.  Thank you that when we are pushed aside by the world, we are welcomed with open arms by Jesus.  Amen

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 29 – “sigh”

Have you ever had a day …

Maybe back in school where you really wanted to do well on a test and you even studied some and you were pumped up … and when it came time for the test you just didn't feel all there?

Maybe at work you had a particular assignment and you made all sorts of plans and charts and you knew just what to do in your head … and when it was time to get the job done, all you could think of was calling in sick?


It's not a bad day, exactly.  It's not all that different from any othe day, in fact.  But something inside you just hasn't clicked on.  You feel OK, but just not great.  "Blah" comes to mind.  As does "Ho Hum"  Maybe even "sigh" (without a capital letter).  You don't want the day to be drab.  You want to get excited.  To get things done.  But it's just not happening for you.


And to make things worse, there is invariably someone else around who is Mr. Chipper.  You know, he's all those things you wish you were right now.  You've been that guy in the past.  Just not now.


That was me today.  Trying to work before and after Mr. Tarzan (aka Ferel) got to the house.  I tore out some sheetrock at Mom's house.  Pulled a few nails.  Walked around and looked at stuff that was here yesterday and looked just the same then.  Blah.  Ho Hum.  sigh (without a capital).


Then Ferel and Melissa came for a quick hour or two of work before they left for home.  The energy level in the house went up dramatically.  He bounded from wall to wall.  Took out a wheelbarrow load of trash.  Pulled some nails.  Tore out some sheetrock.  Started again.  I tried to keep up.  I really did.  But I was counting the minutes until we would leave to attend a memorial service off the island.  If anybody had asked, I would have said I was tired.  But no one did.  I was – and am – certainly ready to take another of those Sabbath rests.  A few of them.  Back to back.  Maybe I have that dreaded mold disease.


I carried my disease with me through the memorial service.  Into Loews as we looked at stuff for the house.  Into the Omega house and back to the other car where we finally found our missing cell phone (missed a call from the SBA.  Oh, well).  Into the youth group meeting at the church.


And there I woke up.  I think I started to rouse when Mike shook my hand, smiled, and said he shared the link to this site with a coworker and it made her cry.  The cloud definitely lifted a bit more when the kids began to arrive in all their exuberance.  I blinked at the brightness when two girls who were back for the first time since the storm came over and hugged me and told me they had missed me.  I welcomed in the warmth when we began to sing – to praise.  Of course.  Psalms 22:3 says, "God inhabits the praise of his people Israel."  If it works for Israel as the people of God, it also works for us a Christians.  How about a quick blast from the past?  I grew up as a Jesus Freak in the Jesus Movement of the 70's.  We had a saying back then.  Someone would shout, "Attitude Check!"  And everyone within hearing distance would respond with another shout, "Praise the Lord!"


Praise the Lord.  God will be there.


Father, shout me down a good, loud, "Attitude Check!" next time I get in a funk like today.  Praise You!  Amen.

October 28 – “Moving Day … Again”

"God has been very good to me.  You need it right now.  I don't."

Praise.  Ministry.  Submission.


Today we moved … again.  Workers were due to begin soon on the house in Tiki Island, so we had to find another place to stay while working on our "Galveston Mansion."  We thought it was just a regular house, but we found out today that the Small Business Administration loan adjuster indicated that it would take $247,000 to rebuild it.  He didn't think I made enough to qualify for the loan.  Interesting.  Maybe on the Bay.  Maybe in Florida.  Of course I don't make enough to qualify for that much!  We don't need that much.


Anyway, we "loaded up the truck and we moved to" … Omega Bay.  It's out near Bayou Vista, so it's not far.  The house is great, though.  It's on the intersection of some canals, so the fishing must be pretty good.  Maybe some day I'll have the time and energy to cast again.  There's plenty of room for Mom to come back with us.  Even has an elevator.  The couple who loaned it to us, The White's, has been more than tremendous.  They are members of Bay Area First Baptist Church – the one that adopted Seaside.  And the White's have adopted Chris and me.  They have gone way past the second mile in bending over backward to make us feel at home.  And they still ask us what else we need so they can take care of it.  Judy is a ball of energy – constantly on the move.  She's the one who has been delivering donated supplies to us and to Seaside.  Tyrone has been the quiet, behind the scenes, take care of business guy.  He's the one who said to me on several different occasions, "God has been very good to me.  You need it right now.  I don't."


"God has been very good to me."  Praise.  "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more."  (Psalms 71:14).


"You need it right now."  Ministry.  "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free."  (Ephesians 6:7-8).


"I don't."  Submission.  "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  (James 4:7).


Tyrone gets its.


Father, help me to be a Tyrone-type Christian.  Praising you.  Serving you.  Submitting to you.  Amen.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

October 27 – “Tarzan, the Lumberjack”

Sunday morning some of you may have met my new friends Ferel and Melissa Gage and their kids – Summer, Ty, Autumn, Savannah, and Wyatt.  They are from Palo Pinto, Texas, and have been praying for us and for Seaside pretty much ever since the storm.  They came this weekend to see their niece in Clear Lake and to see what they could do as a family to help out in Galveston.  Today was their day to help out at the Vaughan house. 


It is still hard for me to understand what we need.  Though we see a faint light at the end of the tunnel, and though I am committed to a life of optimism because of what Jesus has done in the past, I admit I am still overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task facing us in rebuilding.  I get to thinking in terms of the city, and all I can picture is where to send teams of volunteers and what can I tell them to do when they get here.  And I end up drawing a blank.  Then I get to thinking of Seaside, and all I can think of is how incredibly blessed we were not to have lost our building and everything in it.  Churches from all over Texas are calling and asking what we need and how can they help.  And I draw a blank.  Then I get to thinking of my own family, of our house and Nathan and April across the street and Mom staying with my brother in Houston.  People like Ferel and Melissa call and ask how they can help my family specifically.  And I draw a blank.  I guess I have developed a lot of blank in my head over the last six weeks.


The Gages came to our house ready to work today, and all I could think of was trimming the now-dead-and-dying trees around our power lines (not that they have power right now, but someday they will!).  Ferel was ready.  He had a chain saw and ropes and mountain climbing gear.  He got his kids all gloved up and put them to work raking and bagging leaves on our deck and removing downed tree limbs from the yard.  I hadn't even noticed the leaves on the deck.  I remembered seeing the limbs back when we first came home, but then we went inside and my brain fried.  Ferel then geared up himself.  He strapped on the climbing gear, shimmied up the nearest tree, draped some rope around a limb, and called for the power tool.  It was amazing.  It was like Tarzan had appeared in our backyard dressed like a lumberjack.  With Melissa's steady hand on one end of the rope, he took out the offending branches and was ready to take down the whole tree right then.  His lovely wife - and my own - had another opinion, however, so he stopped for the day and began cleanup, all the while talking about how they "hadn't done near enough," and "Wasn't there something else they could do."  What an amazing family.  I couldn't believe how much they did do, and they were disappointed they didn't do more.


What a great picture of the Family of God.  1 Peter 2:9-10 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."


Father, we have work to do as your family – declaring your praises, coming before you in prayer for your people, standing ready to "direct traffic" as you draw lost people toward yourself.  Give us the creative eyes of the Gage Family – to see the needs around us that others are still too overwhelmed to see … and meet them.  Amen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 26 – “Rowena”

I had some people at the house today.  I was at church, but a phone call the afternoon before set up a team of workers to mud out my house and Mom's.  The Texas Baptist Men had been doing a training session all day Saturday at University Baptist Church in Clear Lake, and needed a place for some "extra credit lab work."  University Baptist has a Saturday night service, so they showed up around 9 a.m. ready to work.  There weren't very many of them, but they were amazing.  They tore out our shower, sprayed our house for mold, got most of the sheetrock out of Mom's house, tore out her cabinets, and counseled us on our floors ("Rip them out – the mold has no place to dissipate except up through the house, so your stain won't take, your seal will turn milky, and you will be susceptible to respiratory illness.").  We're still going to talk to the restoration specialist, but it doesn't bode well for our floors. And when they shut down for the day, they were making plans to return after the next training session in two weeks. 


We had another visit from the Lord at church today.  This time he looked just like a lady named Rowena who was down here staying at the Jamaica Beach RV Park as the camp mom for a group of relief workers from Illinois.  She decided to join us at Seaside.  And when she met me she explained that her husband was a pastor and she was the church pianist and she would love to play the piano for us today.  It's really hard for me to say no to someone who is saying yes to God's urging to serve, so I said, "Sure!"  She grabbed a hymn book and started "twinkle-fingering" the keys.


Meanwhile we continued the preparations as "usual" for the worship time.  I got the computer up and ready for Mike to load the songs when he arrived.  But he never arrived.  Seems our resident sheriff CSI was called out and wouldn't be here.  Cause for a brief moment of panic?  Ordinarily, but not today.  Why not?  Rowena.  She had already told me she was here to play the piano, so this was simply filling in the reason why!  I let Lanny know.  They got their heads together and picked some songs.  We worshiped.  And the Lord's messenger (angel!) played the piano for us.  Once again, meeting our need before we even knew we needed it.


It's like when Abraham's servant was looking for a wife for Isaac.  He stopped to pray for guidance, and "Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder." (Genesis 24:45).  God was preparing to answer his prayer before he even prayed it.


Father, before we even began praying in our hearts, Rowena came in, with her hymn books in her hand.  Thank you for the gift of your presence today.  Amen. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

October 25 – “Men in Skirts”

First thing this morning we stopped at the house to check on a crack in the ceiling that I had seen awhile back.  It appeared to have developed a companion crack, so I wanted to get in the attic and check it out.  Sure enough, that crack that started small – the one we never really did anything about - was gradually getting bigger and bigger.  I sure hope the sheetrock guy saw it the other day.  That'll make a big difference in the bottom line if we have to add a ceiling-full of sheetrock.  Sin is like that.  Left alone it gradually takes up more and more space in your life, more and more time, more and more interest.  Often it gathers around it others who are committed to that sinful activity.  It's easier to sin when "everybody's doing it."  And when sin has been around awhile, there is only one way to get rid of it – kill it.  Die.  1 Peter 2:24 says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."


We went up to the church building to clean, get set up for Sunday, and greet the youth group from Louise, Texas.  They were coming to do some relief work in Galveston, and asked Seaside to host them for the day.  Interesting thing about this group.  They drove from wherever Louise is, through Surfside – that's Surfside – storm-ravaged Surfside – no-longer-a-road-to-Galveston-from-there Surfside – to get here.  It took them longer than they expected, since they had to travel around huge holes in the road.  But when they got here they were excited and ready to get to work.  The road of life is pretty tough sometimes.  Hurricanes and floods and broken relationships and disappointments and discouragements.  But in the long run – if we can just hold out – the rewards are great.  And guess what the rewards are?  We get to work!  Here on earth we get to help direct people as God draws them to himself.  Then when we get to heaven we get to work again.  That "work" will be called worship, and we'll love it.  James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."


We didn't get to spend much time with the Louise group.  We had to go to a wedding in Houston.  When the bride called to set it up, I asked her what she wanted me to wear.  She said a suit would be fine, and I said, "OK.  I'll find out tomorrow if I have one."  After a long pause, she asked, "Are you serious?"  I sure was.  We had turned my only suit over to the cleaners for them to try to get the "Ike Juice" off.  I did get the suit back and I did wear it (Yes, I do wear a suit on occasion – weddings and funerals).  And speaking of clothes, when we arrived at the little restaurant that the couple had rented (they rented all of it), I noticed something unusual right away.  I asked Chris, "Are these a group of refugees from Galveston?"  "No," she replied.  "Why do you ask that?"  "Well, all the men are wearing skirts, so I thought maybe they didn't have enough refugee pants to go around."  I got hit.  So, have you figured out that the men were in kilts?  There was also a bagpipe player.  The ceremony had a Scottish flair to it.  I felt like I was surrounded by Andy Stevenses (Some of you Seasiders remember Andy, the bagpiper, don't you?).  The groom's daughter was wearing the family plaid, and when the ceremony ended, she handed her Dad a scarf in the family colors.  He then presented it to his bride to welcome her into the clan.  Quite an impressive few seconds of tradition.  Made me think of Jesus when he said in Matthew 5:17-19, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."


We stopped on the way home to see some old friends from the very first church I worked in way back yonder.  Faithful friends are the best.  Guess what they gave us?  A bag of apples.  Fresh fruit.  Now who would have thought to give a bag of fruit to someone whose only experience with fruit for six weeks has been the little mystery fruit cups from the relief teams?  And then we had dinner with some brand new friends from Palo Pinto, Texas.  Ferel is a pastor there, and when he heard about the storm and its effect on my family, he began calling me just to talk.  We "met" each other's families over the phone.  We talked about life in beautiful, downtown, county-seat Palo Pinto and about life in not-so-beautiful Galveston.  It was good to finally meet him and his real-life family face to face.  Did you hear what he offered us?  Friendship.  And he followed through on the offer.  He was consistent in his calls.  He was incredibly encouraging.  He didn't try to do or be anything he could not or was not.  He just communicated friendship.  It impacted me.  It still does.  And it will when you do it with your neighbor or the person you work with.  Be a friend.  Prove you mean it.  Earn the right to share the things that mean the most to you.  And make Jesus the "Most" of the most.  Remember the parable in Matthew 25:40 when King Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."


Father, thanks for nailing me with your machine gun of truth today.  I needed it.  Amen.


October 24 – “Of Humps and Holes”

Chris got to take a break today.  She went with April for her doctor's appointment since Nathan had to work overtime.  I didn't go straight to the house either.  I spent a few early hours working on the computer.  I do have a sermon to prepare, bills to pay, and a wedding on Saturday in Houston.  Not to mention arranging for relief workers, coming up with project lists for them to do (please let me know if you or your neighbors need any help with cleanup, tearing out sheetrock, spraying for mold, chainsawing trees – whatever – so I can see if the volunteers match the needs), and fielding phone call after phone call of best wishes, how can we help, and even the sad call about the death of Hutchinson's daughter.  Then I did all the errand running.  Two banks.  Gas in the car.  Pick up prescription.  Clothes from the Cleaners (Chris finally farmed out some of her salvage attempts!).  Newly reopened post office (sort of – it's in a big trailer like the banks, but it's better than having to drive to LaMarque for mail).  By the time I got to the house I felt like I was starting two hours behind in a job that would never end anyway.


The long-awaited floor guy came today.  Our contractor sent him to check out the wood floors and see if they can be salvaged.  Chris really wanted to keep them, but they were buckled into really bad humps in several places.  Plus we were not at all sure what they looked like underneath.  You never know what strange creatures may lurk in the deep, dark recesses of two-inch tall nothingness – trapped since the flood under fifty-year-old planks of three quarter inch thick oak.  Remnants of the flood's sewer-salt dampness?  Assuredly.  Mold?  Certainly.  As-yet undiscovered species of sea-creatures spawned in these unique, lab-like conditions?  Maybe.  Monsters?  Hmmm.


The floor guy did his walk-through and made initial recommendations.  He wanted to talk to his restoration specialist, and he made no promises – the floor is in bad shape in places – but he gave us some hope.  He did say, though, that we had to cut out the parts that had formed the wavy humps (no doubt in memory of the actual waves that crashed above them just a month ago).  So when he left, that's what we did.  We didn't have the proper tool (a circular saw – both mine were flood victims), but we did have Josh's Sawzall, a miraculous "I-can-cut-anything" tool.  So using the power tool hooked up to Kel's generator, along with a hammer and pry bar, we managed to cut some holes in our floor.  It was not easy, either.  Chris made the comment that if we were able to save this floor she would never worry about scratches on it again.  Five holes in the floor.  In strategically located spots, of course, to ensure better circulation of the drying air.  Still-standing water under one.  Mold under all.  Didn't see any monster, but you know how good they are at hiding when it's light out. 


So what's the lesson in poking holes in the floor?  I guess it has to do with discovering what's beneath the foundation of the way you live your life.  What are your decisions based on?  What is behind your everyday, no-one-is-looking behavior?  Moldy assumptions?  Stinky, sewage-water sins?  Hidden monsters of things you refuse to give up to God?  Remember the parable Jesus told in Matthew 7:24-25.  "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."  Get one of our preschoolers (or Mama Chris) to teach you that song.  


Father, help me to live like my foundation is built on you.  Anything less is – well, less.  And I would be stupid to settle for less.  Forgive me for the countless times I have settled for less.  Amen

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 23 – “MeeMaw Comes Home”

What an interesting start this day brought.  It was cold!  In Galveston.  It was around 48 degrees, I heard.  We were scrambling.  We no longer had those long sleeved t-shirts from past Disciple-Now's or even a sweatshirt from Denver that we could work in.  We had our trusty blue jeans, though.  And we each finally found a jacket.  Chris found one she had salvaged and washed four or five times.  It doesn't smell any more.  I found a "refugee windbreaker" that really served the purpose for me.  It wasn't cold enough to wear the "Coat for Christ."   (That's right.  I was also given a coat that had a tag on the zipper indicating that it was a "Coat for Christ" given by a church in Denton.  How it got clear down here to Galveston, I have no idea).


Anyway, once we started working at the house, we didn't need it.  My task for the day was to remove ceiling and insulation from the walk-in closet and the laundry room.  It was a nasty job.  Insulation itches.  When I finished that, I started back on scraping the kitchen floor.  So far it had taken the better part of three days on that floor – three layers.  The top one was linoleum, the other two were some kind of tile – probably asbestos (Just kidding, EPA.  Or whoever checks those things).  We finished scraping the tiles in the closet earlier – well, Chris finished the job, and was quite proud of it.  Then, when there was just a football sized patch of tile left, I "admitted" that I was whipped – through for the day.  And Chris came through.  Once again she finished the scraping job.  What a woman!


We had a pretty exciting text message from Nathan about half-way through the kitchen.  He was at work.  It said, "The guys at work say we're green."  Now, in Galveston at this particular time in history, that is one of the best pieces of news anyone can deliver.  I felt quite "cutting-edge" as well to have received it via text message.  But Green means we are now eligible for building permits.  We can move ahead!  We can rebuild.  Bring on the insurance money!


As great as that news was, though, the best part of our day today had to be when Mom arrived on Sycamore for the first time since we evacuated way back last month.  We knew she was coming.  She spent the night with her best friends, Betty and Mildred, and today they planned to tour the island together, starting with Sycamore.  She hugged us a little tighter than usual, and held on a little longer than usual.  But then, so did we.  We have missed her.  She's the rest of our family.  She told us my brother had fixed up a room for her in Houston so we wouldn't have to worry about her.  OK, so we won't worry, but that doesn't make us want her to come home any less.  We told her about the house in Omega Bay that had plenty of room for her and even an elevator if she needed it.  W also let her know that Jachin and Micah ask, "Where's MeeMaw? Every time we see them.  We really appreciate all that my brother and sister-in-law have done, and I know Mom does, too.  But I think she just wants to come home – or as close to it as she can get.  Hopefully all that will work out very soon after we move Monday.  Check out this verse that came to mind after today:


Psalms 34:1-3, 8 – "I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.  Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."


Father, thank you for the chance to see Mom today.  Thank you for letting me be the one to walk through her house with her and hear her "Oh, no's" and "Oh, my goodness'es."  Thank you for her hugs.  And thank you for your hugs, too.  Amen.

October 22 – “The New Generator”

We had another answer to prayer literally drive into Mom's driveway yesterday.  A good friend from Arlington brought down his camper for us to use as we need it.  Looks like Nathan and April will get first shot at it.  We have a place to go this weekend and they don't have another place until later on in November.  They also brought down some more supplies – water from the North Richland Hills Fire Department, towels from South Oaks Baptist Church, and the camper was stocked with food as well.  It'll take awhile to wade through the supplies and straighten the place up, but it will certainly be a helpful addition to our little neighborhood for however long we need it. 


David, the guy who brought it down agreed to stay the night and set it up for us in the morning, so we got up early and headed to Home Depot to look at buying a generator to run it on.  We found one at Home Depot that met with David's approval (he's the pro at this.  Remember, I don't do camping!).  We also found out that we needed some parts so David could create a converter cable so the camper would work with the generator.  See, David used to be an electrician before he became a fire fighter, and he knows how to do all that.  It seems he had several types of connectors, but with one, the air conditioner wouldn't work.  With another the AC and hot water heater couldn't be used at the same time.  There was one part, though, that would make it all work just right.  Well, our good ol' Galveston Home Depot didn't have the right part, so we ended up at the one in League City.    David selected what we would need, and we headed back into Galveston.


When we arrived, he immediately set to work, because he had to teach a First Aid class back in Arlington.  He had hoped to leave by 10 a.m.  Didn't happen.  Why?  Because when we opened the package to the plug, we discovered that although the packaging read correctly, the part inside was not the right merchandise.  It had been either mislabeled or mis-packaged.  And that meant one of us had to drive thirty minutes to League City and thirty minutes back.  Guess who "won"? 

An hour later (now it was
10:30.  Sorry, Dave), I got back, and in no time David had the cable created, the camper hooked up, and the air conditioner running.  This won't be so bad to have going when we are working on the house.


And now, the lesson.  I did get one from this.  See, the camper cable didn't fit into the power source.  There was nothing wrong with the power source.  It was humming along nicely.  The camper just had a problem.  It had no relationship point with the generator – no way to hook in to the power.  There were other cables, and some seemed to work right for a time, but pretty soon it became evident that they just weren't good enough.  Get it yet?  We are a bunch of campers.  We do all kings of things to connect to a power source greater than we are, and some seem to work for awhile – popularity, success, money, a great job.  But something is just not right.  We need the right cable to connect to the right power.  Jesus is that cable that makes it possible for us to be in a relationship with God, and that gives us access to his incredible power!  Are you hooked up to God with the right cable?


"Jesus answered, 'I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except through me.'"  (John 14:6).


Father, forgive me when I try to connect with you using the wrong cable.  It never does work right.  Jesus, please be my Cable.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October 21 – “Roller Coaster”

Have you ever had one of those roller coaster days?  You know, everything that happens is either great and awesome and best-ever, or it's terrible, disappointing and depression-inducing.  Welcome to my world.  Or at least to my day today. 


We got up early and went to the Galveston County Dog Racing Track in LaMarque.  No, we didn't decide to blow what money we had left and bet it all on the dachshund that reminds us most of Heidi.  That's where the Texas Windstorm Agency had set up shop.  We were among the first ones there – Yeah!  But we couldn't figure out how to get to the proper entrance – Awww!  After a kindly old security guard took pity on us and explained how to get there ("Take four lefts when you leave.  Left.  Left.  Left.  Left.  That last one you should be by the bank over there.  See it?").  Well, we could see it, but he never turned around or pointed.  Guess he was just making his speech of the day.  Following his directions, we found the entrance – Yeah!  But now there were even more cars in line – Awww!  We got in the check-in line, got to the front fairly quickly, and showed our policy – Yeah!  That meant we were ushered to a chair outside and told to wait until our number was called.  Awww!  A lady came out and said she was the bearer of bad news.  It seems the computers in Austin were down, so no paperwork could be filed – Awww!  Unless, of course you already had a confirmation that you had filed a claim – Yeah! (We had one).  We were moved up in line and were seen within about ten minutes – Yeah!  Then we were told to wait again – Awww!  Then our name was called and we were presented a check for Extra Living Expenses – Yeah!  But we had been there for two hours – Awww!


We finally talked to our contractor, and we got the guy we wanted – Yeah!  But we were still in the yellow zone, so he can't get permits yet – Awww!  Our neighbors Larry and Sandy came by with permits to do some work on their house.  Maybe there is hope for us – Yeah!  They are eleven feet, three inches above the mean flood plain.  We are only eight feet, three inches.  And the dividing line for issuing is eleven feet – Awww!


Up and down.  Up and down.  How long is this going to keep up?  Stuff like this makes me tired on the best of days.  With all this accompanying stress and pain and physical exertion … I'm tired.  Again.  But I know that – through it all – "it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."  (Philippians 2:13).


Father, I'm dizzy.  I've about reached the point where I just want to get off the roller coaster.  Could you give me some substantial good news soon?  Thanks.  Amen.