Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 30 – “Facebook fiasco”


Well, Facebook officially booted me off for two days. It seems they didn't like me being in Texarkana, Arkansas, any more than I did.  They let me get back in to fix everything, though.  But only after we got to Eureka Springs.  I'm glad we don't go through Texarkana on the way home.


When we checked into the hotel the guy was asking numerous questions, chatting me up to cover up the fact that it was taking him longer than he expected.  One of the questions involved where we were from.  That led to a discussion of the Great Flood of '08 in Galveston.  I told him we were enjoying seeing trees, because all the trees in Galveston are dead.  One corner of his mouth turned up ever so slightly, and he said, "I gave you all the trees you can handle right outside your window."  I guess that's good. 


In fact it did turn out good.  As we were getting settled in, Chris went outside to take a picture of the view out our window.  Yes, Mama Chris has the camera again.  We will have a video record of this trip.  She very carefully eased back into the room and whisper-shouted, "Kelley, Come here."  I couldn't imagine what was wrong, but of course I went there.  The view from our balcony was indeed grand.  We were right up next to the woods.  And right at the edge of the tree line stood two deer, and both had very nice racks of antlers. She got severaql pictures before they eased away.


The Pine Mountain Jamboree was a lot of fun.  There were probably 20 people in the audience, so they did a lot of entertaining from the floor in front of the stage.  One guy in the band was a real kindred spirit, shall we say.  He was a goofball.  Changed clothes ten times or more.  Wore wigs and ladies clothes and a very cool hat that changed shape. 


The inevitable question finally came up this afternoon.  We were heading back to the hotel to crash for awhile before we went to see the Passion Play.  We were going up and down some little side street shortcut I found that was going to lead us back into the downtown area – again.  Funny thing about the downtown area here.  It looks and feels just like the Strand on steroids during motorcycle rally weekend.  Shop after shop of tourist trap stuff.  And it is motorcycle rally weekend.  Combined with "I drive a corvette, look at me" weekend.  Lots of people, bikes and corvettes.  Anyway, Chris asked me if I was relaxed yet just as we entered yet another blind curve and met a trolley coming right at us.  I paused a moment, then replied, "I guess since I'm still grinding my teeth, I have to say no."  But I think it's getting there.


Isaiah 9:2 says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.


Father, thanks for the light.  Play it over and over again.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 29 – “Through Arkansas”


We have arrived.  Oh.  In Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  I gave Chris a gift today.  I drove the whole day.  She usually drives most of the time because she likes to drive and I hate it.  But she's worth it. 


Our stay last night the LQuinta, Texarkana, Arkansas, left much to be desired.  It was really hard to tone back our thoughts when the desk clerk asked in her best, desk-clerk-y, perky voice, "Did everything go just perfect with your stay here?"  That was one of those look at each other and smile moments.  We went to their Denny's for supper.  Bad service.  Nasty food. The manager seated us and said our waiter would be with us shortly.  A girl came by and said our waiter would be with us shortly.  Finally she came back and said she didn't know everybody else was on break so she would take our order.  We looked up and the other waiter was standing at the kitchen door staring at her.  Chris ordered a taco salad dish.  I stuck with the soup and salad.  The taco salad finally came out with a glob of greasy chili on top.  I had to ask for a cup of ice so my iced tea would indeed be iced.  And the meal went downhill from there.  The service didn't get any worse.  Couldn't.  That was the last time we saw them.


The room itself wasn't all that bad.  Except when someone in another room flushed the toilet or took a shower.  Noisy plumbing.  The paint was peeling over the shower.  And around 1:30 a.m. someone tried his best to get his key card to work in our door.  I watched his last attempt through the peephole before he gave up and staggered down the hall.  When I got back in bed, I asked Chris if she was relaxed yet.  No.


The trip north was a lot of fun, though.  There are some great names in Arkansas.  Hootiecackle Collision and Glass Service won my own personal award.  Hugs and Biscuits #2 struck me as well.  The implication that there was a number one had a lot to do with it.  And the little towns we went through were tremendous.  Another contest presented itself.  Which of these places that actually got their name on a highway sign had the fewest number of people.  For most of the trip it looked like Gilham would win with 188.  Until we hit Gateway, at the border of Missouri.  All 116 of them.  We even passed through the home of Tyson Chicken.  Interesting smell.  And of course, Bentonville has something to do with WalMart.  


Cell phone service was spotty at best.  In fact it comes and goes inside our hotel room here.  Hopefully we got all the calls we needed.  Like the one form some good friends in Alabama.  They found out we were on vacation and offered to let us stay with them if we found our way to Alabama.  Hmm.  We stopped for lunch in Fayetteville.  Took a short cut.  Passed by the University of Arkansas.  Then when we went to turn around we found ourselves in the parking lot of the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse.  Great smoked pork barbecue.  Not kidding.  Smoked pork.  We tried to call Mom's friend from high school, Mildred, but we only had her son's number.  She called back after we got to Eureka Springs. 


From Fayetteville on we ran into motorcycles everywhere.  This was motorcycle rally week in Northern Arkansas.  And in Eureka Springs it was also Corvette weekend, whatever that means.


Tonight we plan to go to one of the shows in town.  Tomorrow we'll be pure tourists.  And tomorrow night we'll go see the Passion play.  Full two days.  After that, who knows?  Maybe Alabama?


Psalms 11:4 says, "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.  He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them."


Father, it could be threatening or assuring to think about you watching all the time.  I choose assuring.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 28 – “The Trip Begins”


Today was the day we began.  After ten years of waiting and three months of wondering, this morning we left Galveston for a vacation.  The first stop was … well, Randall's.  We needed gas.  But then we started out East.  The ferry ride was our first event of the day.  We didn't have to wait at all.  In fact they pulled us around the three 18 wheelers in front of us. 


All the way across we studied the map to determine if we would trust the AAA route or if we would make up one of our own.  It was a pretty intense moment – one which inspired me to opine, "Well, I'm not relaxed yet, are you?"  She wasn't.  Of course there's not much changing you can do to the boat ride.  So we actually began to look around.  And sure enough, within minutes we saw some dolphins playing.  They seemed to be making fun of the fishermen who were floating out in the middle of the waterway.  One of them was just standing there with his line up in the air and his cork waiting to be cast.  Guess he was admiring the dolphin show. 


As we docked on the Bolivar side, I began to wax philosophic.  That is after I asked Chris if she was relaxed yet.  No.  Not yet.  I decided that some days I want to be a pelican.  Sit on a log and watch the funny people watch me.  And when I get hungry, jump in the water head first and not worry about what that looks like.  Yes.  I can fly in formation, you know, and it looks good.  But deep down what I really want to do is fly straight up for awhile, then shoot straight down into the water.  Splash.  Great fun.


Lunch at Jack in the Box in Winnie.  And then we got adventurous.  We decided to depart from the AAA route.  And strangely enough, we decided to take the fast lane.  Instead of going through a bunch of little towns we jumped on interstate 10 and zipped to Beaumont. 


We found those back roads before too long, though, and soon we were rambling through Mauriceville and its famous eating establishment, The Rusty Rooster.  Yum.  Not today.  The Chat and Chew Bar BQ in Buna was tempting, but neither of us was hungry.  In Jasper Chris asked me if I was relaxed yet.  Not yet.  She thought she might be getting there because she had just noticed a quilt shop.  About the time we passed Silver Needle Quilts.  She didn't see that one.  But since I did, does that mean I'm getting close?  Where are the pelicans around here, anyway?


My favorite church name of the day was the Church BY Jesus Christ.  So does that mean he lives next door?  Or was he the general contractor on the job? 


It finally began to get a little hilly.  In honor of Mom I said, "Oh, my aching back."  That proved to be somewhat prophetic, though.  When we got to Center, Texas, we had to stop for a walkabout.  By this time Chris was in her driving zone.  I was dozing and trying to follow on the map.  I finally gave up and turned on a dvd.  Like that would help me stay awake.  I actually almost put in a cartoon so I would have an excuse for falling asleep. 


Finally had to put it away as we got close to Texarkana.  It was time to stop for the night, so I had to help look for a place.  As it turned out, we couldn't get to a hotel until we made the turn on State Line Avenue – the state border line.  The hotel was easy enough to get to, but we had no idea if we were in Texas or Arkansas.  We finally found an address in the room.  Arkansas it was.  Quick trip to Denny's for supper (where Chris once again asked if I was relaxed yet) and here we are in the room.  NCIS season opener.  Chris is excited. 


Psalms 9:9-10 says, "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."


Father, thanks for this opportunity.  It has a lot of promise.  Amen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27 – “A flying trip”


Once again there is an answer brewing before we know how to ask for it.  Last night we made the decision.  We are going on vacation for the first time in ten years.  And we are leaving first thing in the morning.  I assumed that meant there would be at least a two week layoff in journal entries since we had no laptop.  That might still be the case, but then again …


We made a flying trip into Texas - to Houston - tonight.  Our friends with the extra laptop said we could come on up and get it, so we did.  And Mom even rode up with us.  It was great seeing them again.  We got to visit for an hour or so.  Chris got to tell the story of her summer.  I can't tell if she wants to or not.  It sure seems to help her to talk about it though.  She almost cried a time or two when she talked about her Mom's last hours, but she got through it just fine.  It helps so much to have people who really care about you to listen. 


I'll check out the computer in the morning, though.  It's late and my eyes are really burning.  I rode the whole way home with them closed.  That wasn't easy, either.  Every little bump I wanted to open them.  Every time Chris signaled to change lanes I wanted to open them.  Every time I shifted my weight I wanted to open them.  I know I dozed a few times, but every time I woke up I wanted to open them.  That's a strange struggle.  Keeping your eyes closed when everything within you says, "Open.  Open.  Open."  Good picture of trying not to sin.


2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."


Father, thank you – again - for good friends.  Amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26 – “Spiritual Warfare”


God was obviously on the move today, because Satan was doing everything he could to distract and disturb.  The teaching was about Jesus as Lord.  Never a favored topic in the demonic realm.  The challenge was basically, if you are going to say "Jesus is Lord," then you better be about worshipping, emulating his character - trying to become like Jesus (The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodnewss, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23), and obeying his commands (My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  John 15:12-14).  Right after that we had a man share a testimony of where he came from and how God has changed his life.  He was raised in an abusive home and as a result became abusive himself.  He reached a point where he realized his lifestyle was completely wrong, so he turned it over to Christ.  He still has some life consequences to deal with, but he is experiencing within the church joy and encouragement that he never had before.  The music after his sharing was exciting and really inspired worship.  And then we went down to the beach and baptized him.  And at the baptism one of our guests from out of town prayed for him.  Very powerful stuff.


And then we had a discernment meeting.  That's where we are supposed to come together in prayer and try to discover (discern) where God is at work around us so we can figure out ways to join him.  I announced that the association of nearby Baptist Churches has planned a day in October where mainland churches are coming to Galveston to do a massive prayer walk to ask God to retake the city.  That's one thing I am very excited about.  But I know that any time something like that is planned, Satan will do his best to tear it up.  He's had a lot of control in Galveston for many years, so he doesn't want anything to mess it up.  <Read foreshadow here>


We heard that because of some special gifts God led some people to give, in September we came out with $9 in the bank.  Perfect, right?  The absolute definition of a non-profit institution.  Whatever God brings in, we use to carry out his ministries around us.  Now we also heard that if we look ahead in terms of projections and past receipts and other business-type bottom lines, that we will need $4400 more each month than we anticipate receiving through regular tithes and offerings and tuition (since the school is included as well).  On top of that, as we work toward accreditation for the school, we will have to show the agency involved that we have the operating capital to cover two years of expenses.  That means we would have to have $100,000 in the bank. 


So the problem was, where do we get the money to cover the monthly amount and put the other really big amount in the account?  One perspective came from the headmaster who did some great research and number crunching and proposed that we consider borrowing $100,000 to fund the operating costs of the school for two years and to renovate our old building so it will hold more for worship.  The other option we could see was to let the need be known and trust God to provide the money through individuals or grants.  Of course underlying everything was always the fact that God most certainly had plenty of other options that we couldn't see.  That's why he gets to be God.


Should have been a simple task.  Do we want to pursue getting information about borrowing money?  And if we don't want to borrow money, then what are our options for letting the need be known?  The discussion ran the gamut.  Little by little it became evident that there had been bickering and gossiping going on for some time.  My heart cried out to speak words like, "Don't assume the worst about people.  Learn some optimism.  Quit the badmouthing and gossiping.  Forgive and let it go.  Your way is not necessarily the only way.  Have some faith.  Stay calm.  Don't make issues personal.  Stop with the doom and gloom.  Don't respond out of your emotions.  Look at people and circumstances with God's perspective."  All entered my mind.  Someone called for faith.  Others sought a common experience to unite us.  Don't get me wrong.  There was not a knock-down-drag-out fight or anything.  Just an over riding spirit of unrest and disquiet.


Finally there came a cry from someone who had been listening to the Holy Spirit.  She spoke with intensity and purpose and delivered a word of wisdom.  She said that there was a danger afoot among us that was bigger than we were, and it was threatening the unity of God's Body.  The complaints and concerns were merely symptoms of what was really happening.  We were engaged in a spiritual warfare battle that was taking place over the very essence of what Seaside has become over the last fifteen years.  God was at work here.  Bryan was evidence of that.  The other ten people who have been baptized this year are evidence of that.  The completion of this facility without borrowing money was evidence of that.  And Satan was not happy.  Once again we stood at a crisis of belief. 


We stopped all deliberations right there.  And we prayed.  We prayed for forgiveness.  For God's intervention.  For His perspective. 


We committed to continue to pray.  To ask God to point out those areas in our lives that are not consistent with the character of Jesus.  To focus on the obvious acts of God around us.  To encourage one another and build each other up.  We are going to begin a study of the book Experiencing God, one of the foundation documents of Seaside, probably in about two weeks.  It'll be a bring a sack lunch and stick around after worship kind of study that last twelve or thirteen weeks.  The hope is that through this common experience of studying God's Word together, we can get to know each other – where are we in our lives?  What hurts do we have?  What joys do we have?  And as we get to know each other in deeper and deeper ways, we can move toward the kind of unity God desires for us to have.  Unity like the unity Jesus has with his Father.


Spiritual battles.  Of course.  Just when we are at our weakest, he strikes.  I haven't even mentioned the ordeal Josh and Christi have undergone this weekend.  They are seeking God's will for their life as a family, and Satan has jumped all over their circumstances as well. 


But God is stronger.  He has already won the war.  I know that.  Josh knows that.  I pray that Seasiders get that. 


Chris and I still really need to have a vacation.  She is still worn out.  I am very tired of being in pain again.  Not sure where the vacation money will come from.  We have our reserve money that I have saved up from doing weddings.  I'm ready to use that.  We could stay with friends in some places.  Surely we can make it happen.


Ephesians 6:10-18 says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."


Father … that's all.  Just Father.  I'm spent.  Amen.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 25 – “Tough Question”


I upped the medicine as the doctor instructed.  Now I have to wait another month to make sure it doesn't eat my liver.  Then we up it again, "until we reach the therapeutic dose."  It finally hit me today that he meant I really won't get any relief from this stuff until we get back up to at least eight of these pills a day.  That's what I was taking when they were working the last time.  That puts it sometime next year.  Literally.  I have been hurting all day today, so this has been on my mind.  At least I have been able to sleep at night. 


We took a trip into Texas today.  Chris wanted to go to a quilt store.  She asked if I wanted to go or just stay here.  Tough question.  I honestly couldn't answer right away.  Ordinarily I don't get very excited about trips to quilt stores.  I had plenty to do here at home.  Sermon to go over.  I knew that sitting in the car meant I would either throb in the joints or go to sleep.  But Chris has been gone for three months.  I just wanted to hang out with her wherever she went.  I'm a romantic at heart.  So I said I would join her.  Of course that meant Mom would want to go along, too.  So we all went into the big state.  I took along a crossword puzzle book.  I think I lasted almost to the causeway before I conked out.  Did get a few lines filled in though.


When we got home I got a Facebook message from some good friends in Houston asking if I would like to have their old laptop.  They just got a new one.  Sounds great to me.  I'm not sure when we'll be able to connect on it though.  Maybe they can be our first stop on out trip if we ever get to take it.  I'm beginning to get worried that we may have to pass on a vacation again this year.  Our window of opportunity is dwindling, especially if we decide to head anywhere north of Dallas.  And if we don't get a laptop I won't be able to continue with the journal.  That'll be a hard habit to break.  Or restart again.


Chris is working on thank you notes from the funeral.  The funeral home provided them as part of the package.  They were printed in such a way that we couldn't even figure out what was supposed to go on the front.  The biggest problem, though, was no addresses.  So I guess if you sent some flowers or food and you don't get a thank you note from Chris … we don't know where you live.  Thank you.


1 Thessalonians 3:9 says, "How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?"


Father, thank you for all those people who expressed their love and condolences to Chris and her family.  Bless them because of it.  You're a lot better than a thank you note.  Amen.

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24 – “Laptops and vacations”


The new office chair works just fine.  Got it at Office Depot on sale, and they took a coupon on top of that.  Started looking at laptops.  I have no idea what to look for.  I want to be able to write things to DVD's and I want the Office software on it.  Beyond that I have no idea.  Great.  Research time.  Help.


Speaking of research, Chris and I finally talked about taking a trip.  Neither of us has any idea where we want to go, but we do want to go.  We haven't taken a vacation since our 25th anniversary ten years ago.  So far the only solid thing on the agenda is going up to watch Zakary play soccer on a Saturday.  Chris wants to do a road trip through some of the little towns in Texas taking the back roads.  That sounds like fun.  And that's where research comes in again.  Sure hope Seaside is OK with it.


There are some roadblocks already up, though.  We want the laptop to take with us so we can look stuff up about where we are.  We also need to make sure Mom is cared for while we are gone.  She has water therapy and eye drops and eating that really needs to happen.  Chris' Dad has a doctor's appointment somewhere in there as well, and she wants to continue taking him to those.  I wanted to be back before the big associational prayer walk over Galveston on October 16th.  Seaside really needs to participate in that one.  I guess there will always be something.  That's why we haven't taken one in ten years.


My trip to the rheumatoid arthritis doctor was pretty much like the last one. He came in, listened to my breathing, checked my finger, knee and elbow joints, and changed medication.  The blood test turned out fine, so he's upping the sulfasalazine another notch.  Blood test in a month.  Come back in six weeks.  He did say it was OK to keep taking the pain medication.  So far I only take it at night so I can get some sleep.


Mom was sick last night.  She never called out to us, but she apparently vomited in her bed and in several places in her room before she got to the bathroom.  Maybe it was something she ate in all the funeral leftovers we have.  Chris had that cleanup duty today.  One more thing for her to do.  I volunteered to mow the grass so I wouldn't add to the problem.  Mom has slept a lot today, so I hope she's gathering her strength back. 


Psalms 20:1-5 says, "May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.  May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.  May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.  Selah

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.   We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.  May the Lord grant all your requests."


Father, that's some blessing.  I pray that for Chris and Mom and our kids and their kids and Seaside.  Amen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23 – “Welcome Home Blues”


Josh and Christi and their boys left this morning.  And Chris almost immediately started cleaning house.  That's her means of therapy, so it was really a good thing for her do.  She seemed excited to be back at it on her own ground.  There were still a few moments when it was evident that her emotions are still a bit raw, though.  There is so much that still needs to be done related to the funeral – thank you notes and finding a place for the plants and eventually probating the will.  Until all those things are settled, Chris won't be.


I tried to get caught up on some of the things I have to do.  I made a trip out to the school.  Things are going really well with the kids.  We have some decisions to make about funding an endowment for school operations, though.  The options are to borrow some money (about $100,000) to make sure we can get through at least two years, or wait and see how offerings and tuitions and special gifts go on a month to month basis.  That'll be the big topic at our discernment meeting Sunday.  I'm glad we are baptizing a man who has been coming to our home group.  That'll be a good reminder for us about what it's all about.


We also had to do some replacement buying for around the house.  How's this for a welcome home?  The laptop went out with all my files on it.  Thankfully we figured a way to access them.  But that means buying a new one.  And to make sure we don't lose the data as well as all our pictures, we'll also have to get one of those external hard drives to make sure everything is backed up.  While I was lifting Caleb up and down in my office chair, it broke in half.  Neither of us was hurt.  It just made a loud noise.  But it also has to be replaced.  The printer started blinking like crazy and making strange sounds.  Best I can tell, all it wanted was to inform us that it was out of ink.  That means new cartridges.  And the under counter lights are starting to burn out, so we have to get bulbs for them.  I'm just hoping the lawn mower will last a few more times.  With all the rain our grass is getting high again, and the last few times it has sounded like it was in great pain.


One last word about the funeral.  Both Dads were there, as were representatives from both of those families, along with Chris' Mom's side of the family.  There were some good friends from Josh's church in Arlington.  Not to mention the Seasiders who braved the trek.  Thank you to you all.  It meant a lot to have all of our families there.  The Van Vleck Community Center turned out to be the perfect place for the after funeral meal.  Chris' Dad even told me thanks for doing the service. 


Psalms 18:46 says, "The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!"


Father, I'm needing some energy - again.  Home group tonight.  Rheumatoid doctor tomorrow.  I'll do some praising.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 22 – “The Meeting”


Today has been pretty full and the rest of the week doesn't look like it will calm down very much.  Josh and his family came back here from Bay City after the funeral and will leave in the morning.  Kel and his family and Nathan and his family were here most of the day today as well.  It was good for the cousins to spend time playing together.  It was good for Nana to get some grandkid time as well.


We did get somewhat of a surprise, though, when Chris' Dad knocked at the front door.  He said he might come by because he had to go to a bank in Galveston where he has an account.  Chris encouraged him to wait a few days, so we weren't sure if he would come.  But he showed up.  It was a short and very pleasant visit.  He brought a Bay City newspaper for Chris so she could have a copy of the obituary.  The door is still open in the relationship between the two of them and even between him and me.  God is still amazing.


I did want to mention a few things about the funeral experience itself.  One thing happened at the viewing the night before.  As a point of background without going into all the details, when Chris was a baby her Mom married and he adopted her.  They were divorced when Chris was around thirty years old.  That's also when she first found out about the adoption, but that's a whole other story.  Her Mom renewed acquaintance with Chris' biological father after the divorce and they eventually married.  Relationships between the two suitors and their families have been strained at best ever since.


At the viewing the guy who adopted her drove up.  Chris' family was rather tense as they all wondered what would happen when he went inside.  Chris had a great attitude about it though.  She always has considered the only Dad she ever knew to still be her Dad, even as she worked out the new relationship with her biological father.  So she was fine with both of them being there.  They had both been married to her mother for 25 years or so. 


The tension mounted as the much dreaded meeting of the two approached.  The first Dad walked slowly to the casket where the new widower stood.  They both stood quietly for a long time, looking at the one they both had spent a large part of their lives with.  Then they began to talk.  About her.  It seemed to be a cordial conversation.  Only the two of them will ever know what it was about.  Finally the first Dad walked slowly away.  No fireworks.  Just grieving.


Psalms 18:30 says, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless."


Father, You worked out a lot of things this week.  Keep working.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Ah. Hotels. What marvelous creations. The one we decided on for our brief stay in beautiful downtown Bay City was LaQuinta. It was comparable with the prices of other hotels, had a pool (which we never got to use because it was raining), and it had that other essential amenity - free continental breakfast.

We arrived pretty early Monday morning - around 9:00. Chris had several errands to run in preparation for the funeral, so I was going to crash at the hotel. Or so I thought. First of all, there was no one at the desk when I went inside. No one in sight anywhere. And not even one of those little ringy-dingy bells on the counter. I figured this must be how they do it in small towns. So I waited. After five minutes a lady finally came in and apologized. She was the only one around, so she was doing everything. Should have walked away right then. But instead I asked if I could check into my room reserved for the evening. Oh, no. Not possible. Check-in time is not until 1:00 p.m. Now it didn't matter that there was not a single car in the parking lot. We could not possibly check in before 12:15 at the earliest.

I was feeling good. It was morning, and Monday morning at that. I thanked her and joined Chris on her errand rounds. What fun. The errands I mean. The only good part about it was that I got to be with Chris.

We finally got back to the hotel at the proper time, and I checked us in. We had rooms for our group right on the first floor. Easy access. I got back in the car and we drove around to the nearest entry door. No problems getting the card to work in that outer door once I turned it in the right direction. But when we opened the door the smell was horrendous. Imagine cans of lacquer thinner and paint and the appropriate solvent removers for each all open in the same area. That was our hall. We stumbled into our room, and thankfully the smell didn't follow us.

So we decided to again be nice and get unloaded. About the time I brought the last load in, Chris asked me to call the boys and see where they were. And we had no service available. In our hotel room. That wasn't going to work. Chris was the point person for the whole funeral. People had to be able to contact her. I took my phone and walked into the lobby, periodically dialing a number. Always getting the "Service Unavailable" notice. The lady asked if she could help. I informed her that we had no cell phone signal. She asked who our provider was, nodding her head knowingly. Not a good sign. I told her AT&T, and the nodding stopped. She was stunned. "But our free wireless internet is through AT&T. You have to have service." I showed her my phone. And the apologies began again in earnest. "Let's try it in another room." No service. Another. No service. I got quite the tour of the new LaQuinta Bay City. We finally found a room on the third floor that had service, so she fell all over herself to offer it to us. I asked about the other two in our party, and she promised to move them as well. Only later did we find out that Kel and Nathan both had cell service in their rooms. But none in the halls.

And then there was the issue of no soap in the rooms, but that proved to be a minor inconvenience. When it came time for us to check out the next day, they happily extended out check out time by an hour. I think I could have gotten longer, but we had to be at the funeral home anyway.

More about the visitation and funeral tomorrow. We are home, and I'm beat.

Psalms 146:2 says, "I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live."

Father, thank you for safe journeys and dry lodgings. Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"It's blank"

We got to Bay City this morning and haven't really stopped until just now.

We stopped by Chris' Dad's house to pick up her sister this morning. They were going to pick out the flowers for the casket spray. Not that I was particularly excited about joining them. But the rooms was not yet ready at the hotel. I even got to ride along as they stopped by the funeral home. The guy there wanted to know if it was OK for them to refer to me as Brother. I told him I get called all kinds of things. Chris said the people at church call him PK. That stumped him. I don't know what I'll get called now.

We left there and drove clear to the next town to reserve the Van Vleck Community Center for the meal after the graveside service. Took us five, maybe ten minutes. We are in rural America here.

When we dropped Chris' sister off back at the house, her Dad came outside and asked me if I could possibly come inside and look up one of the online postings of the obituary for him. He wanted it printed out. I was happy to do it. Quite a difference from the last time I was there. He seems to have moved from anger to real grief now. I pray he will keep on moving and get through this in a healthy way.

Now Chris has crashed on the bed in the hotel room. We have a few quiet minutes before we have to be at the funeral home. I am borrowing Nathan's laptop. At least the hotel has free internet. The problem is that our laptop monitor is no more. It has gone completely blank. For the last few days it has been flickering just enough that I figured it was my old eyes. Then it started going completely dark instead of showing the screensaver slideshow. Kel was going to look at it for me when he gets here, but now there's nothing there to look at. Oh, boy. Just what I wanted. Another expense. I'll put that one on the list with chopping down the pecan tree in the back yard and having the stump ground. When will that happen? Who knows.

James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Father, I guess since I'm to be called Brother, this applies to be. Thanks for the trials. Whatever they are going to look like. Amen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19 – “Coyote Talk”

Very interesting day yesterday.  I left for Bay City before sunup and decided to go the beach road since I had to drop some stuff off at the church.  I was listening to the Christian radio station and the started playing a song that had the words, "The Earth is filled with your glory."  About that time I saw a flash of movement just off to my right.  A coyote broke out of the grass and darted across the street.  He stopped briefly at the other side and looked back over his shoulder, right at me, as if to say, "And I'm a part of that glory that you don't get to see very often."  I was amazed.  It was the first time I had seen with my own eyes one of the oft spoken of coyote population in the wild.


After that I started to pray.  For Chris.  For her aunts and brothers and sister.  And in particular for her Dad.  I've been thinking about him a lot.  He is a gruff guy, and I don't know if he was ever a believer.  Chris told me when she called and right after I arrived that he had exploded earlier about "her God" and how he couldn't be a God of mercy.  He sees me as the representative of God, so I was included in the tirade.  Right now he is angry at God and extremely bitter in his heart.  As a result he has absolutely no joy in his life.  Not just because his wife just died.  He's just sad.  Micah probably said it best in a prayer for him the other night.  "Thank you God that Grandub won't be so sad." 


It became a pretty intense prayer time, and after awhile I realized I needed some spiritual refreshing, so I decided that I would spend some time just praising God.  And right then the song came on the radio, "Praise You in This Storm."  And for the entire rest of the drive to Bay City, all they played were praise songs.  The one other that jumped out at me when it came on was, "Mighty to Save."  Again, I thought of Chris' Dad.


Chris met me outside and hugged me tightly.  Her two aunts were there.  Her two brothers got there soon after.  The hospice social worker was there.  The funeral home came for the body after all the family had had a chance to say goodbye. 


And then we waited.  The appointment at the funeral home to discuss details was not until 2:00.  By the way, the funeral is at 2:00 on Tuesday at Taylor Brothers Funeral Home in Bay City.  Visitation is from 5-9 p.m. Monday evening.


Around noon we were sitting around the table when Chris' Dad, yelled out at Chris from across the room.  His message was clear to Chris and I, but confusing to the aunts.  He wante me out of the house.  I was kind of expecting something like that, so I quietly got up and went outside.  Chris, however, hadn't slept in 48 hours, so that was the final straw.  She also got up, went into the bedroom and packed all her stuff.  The aunts were upset when they realized what was going on, and they each had something to say to him about the outburst.


They came outside and hugged me, apologizing.  Actually I was fine.  I knew he was in pain, and I told them not to give up on God.  I was sure drawing on the incredible peace and power he had given me through that praise time.  Chris finally came out after two or three loads of things she had accumulated over the three months she had been there.  We went with the aunts to Dairy Queen and had some lunch. 


Finally we went on to the funeral home for the meeting to discuss details.  Chris' brothers met us there, but her Dad wasn't around.  Finally Chris called him around 2:15.  He answered the phone, but hung up quickly.  Chris naturally assumed he hung up on her.  But about five minutes later he came in with his other daughter.  And he immediately went to Chris and apologized in tears.  I wasn't in the room at the time.  She forgave him, but wondered in her heart what he would do when he saw me. 


After the meeting that event occurred.  They came outside and he came over to me with his hand outstretched.  He said, "Would you be willing to forgive an old jackass?"  I told him I didn't see one.  I said, "I forgive you, but I see a man who is hurting, and that's all right.  We can get through this."  Amazingly, he reached out and hugged me.  I know time will tell in areas like this.  The repentance might have been just for the one outburst.  But for yesterday, that's what we all needed to see God do.


I had to leave right after that to get tback to Galveston for a wedding last night.  But on the way out of town, in the rain, I drove over the railroad tracks that kind of mark the entrance to Bay City.  And not very far down the road I saw … another coyote.  And he paused at the side of the road and looked over his shoulder at me as if to say, "I am here, too.  God is worthy of praise."


Psalms 30:11-12 says, "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever."


Father, you are awesome and worthy of all praise.  Thanks for that coyote talk.  I needed it.  Amen.