This afternoon we did something we haven't done in a long time – nothing. We went to church this morning and enjoyed being with our family at
It didn't take long to discover that we weren't alone in our ho-hum afternoon. Nathan and April's dog, Scooter let us know he was around. When I walked downstairs to look for the power washer, he ran to the front door and looked back with those huge Boston Terrier bug-eyes that very clearly said, "Let me out, please." When your grand-dog asks, you have to listen, so I spent a few minutes watching him run around like he still had his Halloween chicken costume on. He followed me around to the back when I got the power washer out. He did disappear when I turned it on, but he came right back when I called. He was hiding right around the corner. At one point he took off running toward the water. I lost sight of him, so I jumped up, just as he got to the deck over the water. And just as he got there, the resident pelican decided that it was time for him to get out of town. I don't know who was more scared, the pelican, Scooter, or me. See, if he had jumped in, I would have had to go in after him, and it's still cold outside. We went back inside after that little escapade. I went back to the couch, and he immediately put his head in my lap, asking for some attention. And petting him wasn't enough. Then he brought his toy over and begged me to play some fetch. This whole grad dog thing is hard work. Finally I came over to the computer to work on my journal, and he headed off to his bed. I guess he was sulking.
We haven't had our dogs Fritz and Heidi around since the flood. They are staying with Kel and Christina (when they aren't running away). I forgot there's just nothing like a faithful dog.
Father, that's the kind of faithful I need today and every day. Thanks for the little picture of it in Scooter. Amen.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Every year since I was back in Junior high school my family and friends have gathered together on the Saturday after Thanksgiving at high for a football tradition. It started small – just my brothers and my cousins. I had two brothers and four guy cousins. Soon we invited a few friends. As we got into high school and then college, the number ebbed and flowed, but the tradition continued every year almost without exception. One year we had T-shirts printed up to commemorate the occasion. Some years invitations were sent out. Occasionally there was a party the night before. In more recent years a most unusual trophy was presented in honor of a guy who always promised to come, but somehow never did. We have had many memorable, historical moments. The youngest child of the "next generation." The first girl. The oldest participant. We have played in a driving rainstorm. We have endured sweltering
The tradition continued this year – today. This year a four-year-old caught a pass and was tackled mercilessly by a near-thirty-year-old. And that four-year-old took out another guy three times his size with a beautiful body block. (By the way, the four-year-old was my grandson Jachin). This year we ran a play where an incredibly pregnant woman played quarterback – and scored on a run up the middle. No one saw the ball. We thought it was just her belly!
Honestly speaking, it didn't really feel like we wanted to be there today. Chris said the competitive spark was missing. Might have been that Kel and James both had bad knees. And I was out there, too. Need I say more? Might have been that even those of us who did show up had a little bit on our minds other than football. Like maybe – our house. Our job. Our family. But we played, even if it was just a little while. After all, the Turkey Bowl must go on. The Turkey Bowl is forever. Well, maybe not forever.
In Luke 1:30-33, Gabriel tells Mary, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
Father, you are forever. Need I say more? Amen.
Black Friday. When did they start calling the day after Thanksgiving that? I don't remember it from when I was a kid. The only Black Fridays I remember came two days before Easter and when the Ball High Tornadoes football team got beat really bad. Was it created bay the retail world to describe their hope to be "in the black" financially? That sure seems to be their intent for the day.
We had done a lot of our Christmas shopping early this year. Way back before the flood. And we had it all store on the floor of our closet. The floor that was under five feet of water. And at the risk of revealing too much in case we can find replacements, none of it floated. So our Christmas shopping plans have been curtailed for this year. We are cutting way back. Still don't know how much we'll need for the house. But everybody will get something. It's Christmas.
When we got back from Bay City the other night, all the "Big Kids" sat around the table (that would be Kel, Nathan, Christina, April, Chris, and me). We divvied up the huge pile of newspaper ads and did some pre-shopping shopping. Kel pointed out a printer. Nathan made sure everybody saw the X-box and Wii. Christina found several things for boys. April seemed to gravitate to the girlie baby things. Chris oohed and aahed with the girls. I wondered if power tools were on sale anywhere.
So … today we decided to put our sore big toe into the teeming waters of
One of the things on our list was on sale for $10, but only until (again, a clue!). Since we realized that at , we raced for the nearest register – electronics. The clerk rang up our purchases, and when she got to the aforementioned item, it came up $22 and something. Chris immediately challenged the price. She even showed her the sales circular we found (which was in Spanish, but the picture was the same. And the number still read $10). She didn't argue. But she also couldn't change the price without authorization from one of those ever popular "CSM's". It took about five minutes for one to get to us. The clerk kept calling – probably every minute or so. The line was growing fast. Finally three CSM's came at once. The guy who looked at the item said, "This isn't even a $22 item on regular days." The price was adjusted and we headed out of there.
We did manage to find something for the little guys on our list. The big people will have to wait. There are more stores and there may be a tomorrow. It won't be Black Friday then. Maybe we'll be more successful. We'll see.
Luke says, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Father, Christmas is about giving, isn't it? Even if we have to endure a Black Friday to get there. Or a Flood. Thank you for giving us salvation. And a new life every day. Amen.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thanksgiving Day. For us today meant packing up food and heading to
Our months-old Great Debate also came to somewhat of a head today. See, for quite some time now we have needed a new car. We really don't want to take on a car payment, though. Especially not now that we don't have any idea how much it will take to rebuild our house. Our 1997 minivan has become less and less reliable, until we can't trust it beyond driving around town. The "Check engine soon" light stays on all the time. It leaks when it rains, so it smells musty all the time. It's fine for loading up fishing gear and picking up live bait. It's great to keep all our house cleaning gear in – boots, masks, towels, snacks, boxes, Clorox. Last night I gave Kel a ride in it. I know that sounds like it's some kind of Six Flags attraction – and sometimes it is. But this time we just wanted to get where we were going and get back home. It was already dark. We pulled up to our destination and parked under a street light to wait for the guy who would let us in to the building. Suddenly, Kel jumped like he had been shot. He started stomping his feet and shouted, "You have a roach in your car!" I replied, "Yeah. That's George. He lives in here with his family. We see him every now and then." He answered, "Well, not any more. I got him." Sure enough, he had squished poor George. It didn't take long, long for the rest of the family to come out of hiding to check on their missing counterpart. Kel saw a few of them, too. Then for some reason Kel decided that he would rather wait outside for a few minutes. We finished the errand and crawled back into the good ol' van to head home. Kel started stamping his feet and said, "Let's just go. Let's hurry up and get home." I guess he was cold or something. Surely it couldn't be our van.
Today we found out something more about the 1992 Explorer. We already knew that it was one of the series that had been determined to be structurally unsafe – it rolls over easily. Most recently the temperature gauge had gone out. It still drives better than the van, though, so it is our "Away" car – the one we use for trips. That's the one we were in. Headed for
I guess we all have a Great Debate at some point in our lives. Sometimes it's over silly things like trading in cars or getting someone a particular gift for Christmas. Sometimes it's more serious, like whether to have a particular surgery or should you ask her to marry you? Jesus debated all the time with religious leaders, but he seemed to be having fun. It was when he debated with himself that it got tough. The Great Debate of Jesus came in the
Father, we still don't know what to do about a car. It's not a very spiritual decision, but it does affect my family, so I want to make the right one. In all things, though, I want my prayer to be yours – not my will, but yours be done. Amen.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
There was no school this week, so we cleaned the church today. It is amazing to see how the
My job today was to write the church's name on our two new outside garbage cans. Our old ones floated away somewhere. I found a few black permanent markers and headed out amidst the construction crew. I didn't look for stencils or anything. I just drew out the block capital letters freehand – "
We stopped at Sonic for a cherry limeade slush – and some food. We had another outdoor dining experience, this time sitting in our porch rocking chairs. One of our neighbors had a crew texturing his walls. Another is already painting. The lady across the street asked to borrow the power washer again. The lady living in the trailer in her front yard took it with her when she went somewhere for Thanksgiving. She'll be back next week. We have our building permit and are waiting for the electrician to get us power to the house. On the one hand, if we're really deep-down honest, we feel a little bit jealous of those guys. But on the other hand, it's exciting as well. Something is happening. The neighborhood is coming back. What looked so dead for so long is showing signs of life.
Our main goal today was to get the quilt chests out of Mom's garage and clean them up for their trip to
2 Corinthians 5:1-9 says, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it."
Father, I do a lot of groaning, but it's usually related to some complaint or physical pain. Keep this sense of longing I feel now for my Sycamore home alive in me. But make it for my real home – the one with you. Amen.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Today we fried. But first …
Our day began around when Chris' mom (who is a cancer patient) called and said she was on the way to the emergency room in
At sharp my internal alarm exploded to life. I was wide awake. We had a lot to do anyway, so I got up and began my morning routine – coffee, quiet time, newspaper, journal. Around my phone rang. The Gage family was on their way over with a trailer full of donations for Ike victims (i.e. Us). We expected blankets and other "things to keep us warm." There were those, but they also had a couch and bags of clothes and even some toys. I skimmed through some of it. At one point I almost called up to April, but then I realized I had it backward. There was a dog costume for a kid. But she would want a kid costume for a dog. Remember, she's the one who dressed her dog as a chicken on Halloween.
Anyway, the Gages were on their way to
We also had a surprise visit from Tyrone, the guy who owns the Omega house. He was meeting a garage door guy to check out the opener. Great to see him. One of the turkeys was for him and Judy anyway, so now he could take it with him. But Chris was a bit frantic. "He would come when the house is a mess." I didn't even think about that. Don't think he did either.
All in all it was a day of the unexpected. Unexpected phone call in the middle of the night. Unexpected donations. Unexpected grease. Unexpected visit. Made me think of that verse about the unexpected – the thief.
John says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Father, thank you for the unexpected – the surprises you send into our lives every day. Bless the Gages and Tyrone. Keep your hand on Chris' mom. Amen.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Today was a great day and a sad day. It was a day of rescue. It was also, sadly, a day of loss. We arrived at the house fairly early and began digging into the backyard storage shed. The small portable building had toppled over during the flood, and we had only reached it last week. Inside we found a gold mine of pots for plants, uncompromised spa chemicals, assorted backyard-type junk destined for the trash heap long before Ike solidified their fate, and the two turkey fryers. An intermittent rain created a dismal atmosphere for the uncovering. But we continued with the task, determined to find out if this Thanksgiving would have its fried turkey or … not.
They both cleaned up as well as could be expected. The propane tanks attached seemed to be fine – and not empty. I moved to the first one – the "Original Fryer." I turned the tank's valve and moved to the regulator. This would tell the tale. I turned the big red valve slowly. And nothing happened. Not to be deterred, I tried again. The gas began to flow. I lit a match and dropped it in the direction of the hiss. A small explosion of fire arose and continued. I was elated. It was going to work. I reached for the regulator to … regulate … the flame. And nothing happened. I twisted the knob in the direction that was supposed to stop the gas flow, but to my horror, the knob broke off in my hands. No regulator. No way to control the temperature. Any turkeys fried in this machine would be doomed to burn to a crisp. Sadly, I extinguished the blaze by turning off the flow at the tank. Dejected, I disconnected the fryer and dropped it into the wheelbarrow and carried it to the waiting pile of trash.
Hopes for the tasty delicacy that had become a part of our family holiday celebration years ago seemed dashed for the moment. Not expecting much, I turned to the second fryer – our last chance. The steps were the same. Twisting the knobs in the proper order. Dropping the tiny match into the path of the hissing gas. Watching the flames leap to life. And then the moment of truth – the regulator. Slowly it turned. And slowly the fire responded. It was working. Success. We will have Fried
Not long after, we left for WalMart to buy some turkeys and the secret ingredients to Alex McLaughlin's powdery basting recipe. That's when the waiting really began. The turkeys were still somewhat frozen. They had to be thawed. Fill up the sink with water. Change it every now and then. And wait.
The thaw finally happened. Necks and guts were removed. The Alex baste was applied in earnest. Tomorrow we fry.
I thought about that regulator today. Without it the turkey fryer was useless. There was no way to control the temperature. Too hot and the grease would catch fire. Too cold and the turkey would never cook. What is our spiritual regulator? What keeps us from going off the deep end into emotionalism? What stops us from getting so intellectual that our Christianity becomes a cold, dry religion? The Bible is the key. Where else can we check up on our actions and even our motives? Psalms 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."
Father, we need that lamp down here, because it's been awfully dark lately. Amen.
I had another toe episode last night. About It wakes me up with a really sharp, don't-touch-me kind of pain totally centered in my big toe. Talk about weird. I sure hope increasing this medication starts working soon.
Today I spoke at
Last night they had a ham dinner instead of services. Food was great. I set up the powerpoint I've been slaving over, and after they ate Chris and I both answered a ton of questions. They even gave us a love offering we didn't expect. One guy said, "I figured I really didn't need to buy another gun. I decided you could use the money I gave to buy some furniture." I can't wait until we get to that point so I can designate something "The Gun Couch." That'll give us something to talk about.
As silly as it sounds, "The Gun Couch" could really become a symbol of the sacrifice that guy made. Kind of reminds me of communion time with the church. The ultimate symbol of sacrifice.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 says, "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
Father, thank you for starting up this way for us to remember what you did for us. Help us to take it seriously. Amen.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I can divide today into three distinct sections. First is the "powerpoint finally works" section. It took three days and all kinds of trial and error, but I finally figured out the program. 157 slides and two songs are finally one presentation. I have great respect for those who do this sort of thing every day. The only remaining point of confusion is why the CD I made won't play the music on my desktop computer. It does the pictures fine, but no sound. I chalked it up to an older version of powerpoint. But as long as I have my laptop, I should be fine at my talk tomorrow. It works on there.
Part two of the day came when we went into
Part three, though, was refreshing. A guy we met when he came down with a crew to work on our house called and said he was bringing us some food. His wife is from the
Acts says, "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord."
Father, every day reveal to me where I need to repent. I desperately want – need – those times of refreshing that are better than lemon cake and grandkids. And something that good can only come from you. Amen.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Today I spent the entire morning trying to figure out how to get a song to play while a powerpoint presentation was being shown. I struggled with it on my desktop for an hour or so, then switched to the newer version on my laptop. I called Kel and had him trying, but his screen and mine didn't seem to match. But he couldn't find the right button on his screen, either. I figured out how to get the song started, but when the second slide came on, the song stopped. I knew there had to be a simple button somewhere. It took over two hours to finally (accidentally) discover THE BUTTON. I thought I was home free. But then I had to get the two songs I wanted to play to match up with the slides. That meant assigning how long each slide would appear on the screen before moving to the next one. Then … well, suffice it to say that I'm still not finished, and I have to have it by tomorrow morning. Is there another button that I don't know about?
I did a wedding at the Seaside Resort last night. Just the couple, her sister, and three kids. It was very simple. While I did that, Chris cleaned the church. And then she dropped me off at Kel's for "Guy's Night Out." Every so often this group of guys gets together for something fun. Great relationship builder. Last night was supper at Gringos and a movie that didn't start until . A bit late for us old timers. Speaking of old timers, my friend Clay was there. Made it feel like I had someone my own age to play with. He brought a guy with him who went to school with my little brother. Small world.
I couldn't get that whole button thing out of mind, though. I know a lot of people think of Christianity as The Button. They think once they have it, every problem will be solved. Not so much. Reminded me again of the Great Commission. The promise in Matthew 28:20 is, "… surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Not to take away all our problems, but to walk with us through them.
Father, I know you'll keep on walking beside us through this whole reconstruction thing. I'm just afraid of the days I don't want to walk any more. On those days, will you please give me a hug … or a shove … or a swift kick? Whatever you think I need the most. Amen.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I began work today on a powerpoint about the storm and how it has affected my family and
We did go to the church this afternoon after Jay came and picked up Mom. She's spending Thanksgiving with him. At first Chris and I both had one of those "So what do we do next?" moments we have come to know so well. We had decided to work with the stuff in the backyard, but where to start? We raked up another bag of leaves together. Then she waded in with one pile of salvageables while I cleaned a few tools. Boring. Depressing.
Then I remembered something. Our neighbors with the red tagged house had asked us to go through their house and take out anything we wanted to salvage. We hadn't taken the time to do that yet. An adventure. A return to what it was like two weeks after Ike instead of two months. The mess. The smell. I couldn't wait.
We saw an outdoor dog cage folded up in the garage. Look out, Heidi and Fritz, you better not get out again. Chris found some corning ware dishes in the kitchen. I crawled into the attic and found a box of toy cars, a German-English pocket dictionary, and a Doodle Poodle. Remember those? You use a magnet to move some metal shavings over a picture and give it hair or a moustache. Lots of fun. But the most intriguing thing we found by far was an accordion. It had belonged to our neighbor's Mom. Not a toy one, now – the real thing. It had been in the water, and it looked like they had spread it out to try and salvage it. Still had mold on the straps. We decided to see what we could do with it. When I picked it up to look at the other side, I kind of squeezed it, and it made a sound. So I did it again. More music. I pushed some buttons – carefully, mind you, because one had already fallen off – and the notes changed.
This whole accordion thing caught my fancy. Squeeze and pull, back and forth, push a button here and there to change the sound. But which button makes what sound? How long do you hold it down? Can you ever stop squeezing and pulling? Wait a minute. This could be hard work. But once you know what you're doing, the accordion has the most fun sound of just about any instrument. Inspires monkeys, right? Makes you want to dance.
Once you figure out this Christian life thing, with its Bible Study button, and prayer button, and relationships button, and church button – once you get into the hard work part and make it who you are – Christianity is fun, too!
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
Father, help us be patient as you turn this accordion life of ours from a chore into a joy. Amen.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
We had a visit from Chris' parents today. Vern and Dub. I like that name, Dub. His initials are A.W. Dub is short for "W." Anyway, they were going to an insurance seminar at
While they got all informed about insurance and Chris and Mom went to a Wednesday Club thing, I got dropped off at the house to do – whatever I could find to do. I thought about carrying the deck furniture back up to the deck. That would require help with the table, though, so I nixed it. The next thing in my field of vision was the plastic table full of stuff right by the back door. Why not take the Chris approach and begin there? I cleaned off a book about feet by Dr. Seuss. Then two others about dinosaurs. A big book about baseball. A paperback of quizzes on baseball trivia. A few packs of Christmas stationery. And then I came to a stack of pictures.
Now I really didn't expect much there. I had seen what water did to pictures already, and this stack even had some old polaroids – the kind that popped out of the camera and developed right before your eyes. Much to my surprise, the polaroids were fine. They were still damp on the back, but I even wiped off the front and nothing messed up. I tried that on some of the "newer" photos that we had sent off to be developed, and the ink ran everywhere. I guess that's why the Polaroid concept didn't last that long. The process was too good.
Anyway, I was faced now with the prospect of peeling pictures. The polaroids were easy, and they did fine. The first one was a kind of short guy from
What a find! Now some were in bad shape. Some were curled up like our bathroom cabinets after the flood. But I could see who the people were. And I could remember. I guess that's the purpose of pictures, isn't it. To remember. And as I remembered, it hit me that many of these guys had great names - well, nicknames. And their nicknames reflected something about them. The only nickname I ever had was in Jr. High basketball. I was called Joker. I don't know if it was because I looked like a character from Batman or I just grinned a lot.
God has a host of nicknames. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Jesus. Prince of Peace. Jehovah Jireh. Jehovah Nissi. Messiah. Good Shepherd.
The list goes on and on.
I like the "Christmas" one from Matthew 1:22-23. "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'-which means, 'God with us.'"
Father, that "God with us" name of yours is really important to us right now. Thank you for being there ahead of us. Amen.