Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31 – “On Jack Carr”

Another old friend died this week. Jack Carr was the pastor of the first church I ever served in as a youth pastor way back in the 70's. I was just a youngster back then, but he took a chance on me, and trusted me to have some kind of influence on his three boys and the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.

If I had to choose one particular contribution Jack made to my life, beyond the fact that he married Chris and me, I think it would be this: He showed me how to do a staff meeting properly. Now understand, this wasn't one of those huge Houston churches with ten or twelve people on staff. At Langwood Jack was the full time pastor. I was a part time guy making a whopping $25 a week. There was Scott the part time worship pastor, although back then he was called the music director, and Jane the consummate church secretary. She was a tiny little woman who could get most anything done, but she treated every request like it was the worst crisis ever to hit South Texas. Jane died several years ago. Scott died just a few weeks ago. Now Jack. I told Chris that left me as the only living staff member from that era of Langwood ministry. I told her I guess that meant I was next. I was just kidding. She, however, hastened to add, "But you were much younger than them." It's been awhile since I was referred to as "much younger than them."

Now back to the plan for perfect staff meetings. Understand that when I left Langwood to finish seminary I eventually became a graduate assistant grader for the professor who taught the classes on how to do staff meetings. I taught some of his classes for him. I knew all the formulas for planning and implementing. But never did I come across a better idea than Jack's. His formula was simple enough.

Step one: Inform Jane that we would be in staff meeting and would be unavailable for calls. This was before the days of cell phones and even pagers, so he meant it when he said "unavailable."

Step Two: Calm Jane down and assure her that she would be fine and the world would probably not end before the meeting ended, and if it did she would be in heaven anyway.

Step Three: Exit the building, leaving behind all notes, books, and writing utensils.

Step Four: Drive to the nearest really big lake, launch the boat and go fishing. Step Five: This one Jack changed slightly every time, but basically it amounted to making some mention of someone in the church, however brief said mention might be. That would give the meeting a certain amount of credibility when we reported back to Jane. Maybe Joe the treasurer, or Carl the Sunday School director, or Mary the organist, or Connie the pianist, or Nancy the singer and her boyfriend Bo the linebacker. Much of the time, though, we spent talking about our families. He adored that amazing woman in his life, Delores. He was always proud of his three boys. Steve the musician, Jack the athlete, and Danny the fun-loving youngest. We would fish until we had a stringer full. Then, on the trip back to shore, Jack would rev the engine as fast as it would go, and we would race across the water with my hair blowing in the wind (Hey, it was the early 70's, remember. I had some hair back then). I remember once, at this point, Jack suddenly slammed on the brakes. OK, I know boats don't have brakes, but it felt like it when he killed the engine. Scared me to death. I thought something terrible had happened and we would be trapped out in the middle of the lake with no way to get back to shore. I could picture us paddling with our hands for hours. But the crisis? He had forgotten to pull in the stringer of fish. Sadly, they were gone, freed from their bonds when we hit ramming speed.

Step Six: The final stage of the successful staff meeting involved reporting back to Jane. Sometimes we caught her before she left for home. Sometimes it was the next morning. But she always wanted to know how it went. And Jack would always reply to her queries, "Oh, now Jane. You already know everything that happens around here. What could we possibly have to tell you?" That high-pitched giggle of hers would follow, and she would consign us to our next day's tasks with a wave of her hand.

Brother Jack, your legacy lives on in your precious wife, those fine sons, and the countless people like me who you touched with just a little of your joy. Thanks for the lessons.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 says, "No one is like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you."

Father, thank you for giving me the chance to know Jack. Tell him I said Hi, OK? Amen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30 – “Song stuck in my head”


When people post the words to songs on their FaceBook page, does it mean that particular song has been stuck in their head?  You know how sometimes a song tune will make its appearance in your consciousness and you have no idea where it came from?  That would be a cool thing if it was a new tune and you were Ludwig Von Beethoven or the Beach Boys or Bon Jovi or LL Cool J or some other famous songwriter.  Not what I mean.  These songs were written by someone else somewhere down the line, and they just pop into your head for no apparent reason, randomly arriving to virtually invade your thoughts and take over control of that entire side of your brain (whichever side it is that controls artsy stuff). 


The song can be anything, any genre, any era. 


* Warning: I'm about to mention some song titles.  Just reading the following list can be harmful to your sanity for the next few hours, for one … or two … or three of them might make their way into your real of consciousness and become rooted for a day or two or more.*


The song might be from your childhood.  Little White Duck.  In a Cabin in the Woods.  Jesus Loves Me.  Even Rock-a-bye Baby.  It could be from your more rebellious years.  Little Deuce Coop.  She Loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.  Come Together.  Lord of the Dance.  It might be a grand hymn of the faith.  How Great Thou Art.  Count Your Blessings.  Amazing Grace.  It might be a bit more modern, but still an expression of faith.  East to West.  Lifesong.  Prtaise the Name of Jesus.  Or maybe, as is often the case with me, it's a song that you have no idea what the title is, but you still can't get rid of that infuriating tune.  In this category I place movie bits and TV commercial songs.  See the USA in your Chevrolet.  The annoying da-dum theme from Jaws.


And when it happens, there is nothing you can do to get rid of it.  Oh, you make valiant attempts, but they never really work.  One of the hardest things in the world for humans to do is to not think of something when that something has been mentioned.  The only way to get rid of the song festering in your head is to replace it with … another song.  A never ending cycle.


Oh, and one more thing.  It becomes almost unbearable when there are two songs instead of one.  They get all mixed up and you find yourself singing both of them like they are one.  So … I had a two song day.  Crazy combination.  One was the chorus to a great worship song: Alleluia, glory be to our great God.  Not a problem in and of itself.  But in combination with the second, it drove me crazy.  My new song came out something like: Alleluia, my Mama can't dance, glory be, and my Daddy can't rock and roll.  Aargh.


Jeremiah 1:6-9 says,

            "Ah, Sovereign Lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."

But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth.


Father, put your words in my mouth.  Not just for Sunday.  For song days as well.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29 – “New neighbors”


In my typical Sunday afternoon, emotionally drained funk after a great worship service and a meeting after church, I needed some down time where I didn't have to think.  Fortunately it was a gorgeous day, so I went out to do some mindless grass raking.  And while I was working I met some of our new neighbors.  They were out sharing rides on two scooters.  DeAndre and NayNay and the gang.  There had to be four or five of them at least. 


After a period of cautiously checking out the old guy with the stick in his hand, two of them "just happened" to be riding by as I reached the sidewalk.  One of the little girls timidly came over and asked what I was doing.  So I gave her a quick gardening lesson on the benefits of getting rid of the dead grass so the good green grass would have more room to stretch out.  It was a struggle, but I managed to avoid a tirade about evil weeds that grow in a circle and demon devil weeds that have little thorns and of course plain old stickerburs. 


She asccepted what I said with kind of a blank look that screamed, "Whatever, Old Guy," but she immediately asked if she could help.  I said sure, so she started grabbing handfuls of whatever was in front of her.  I hastened to establish that what we were looking to eradicate was the yellow, dead-looking stuff.  Not a problem.  I casually asked what her name was, and I think her reply was NayNay.  She then went through the names of all the other kids, but I couldn't listen as fast as she could talk.  I remembered DeAndre.  He was obviously the oldest, but that's not why I remembered his name.  I just heard it more often, because they all yelled at him at least three or four times each.  He was determined to get more than his share of riding time on each scooter, and like the typical oldest child, he was quite creative in coming up with reasons why it was still his turn. 


NayNay finally got up enough nerve to ask for a turn using the big stick.  She wasn't sure what to call it, though.  She thought maybe rake was the right word, but she had never seen one.  I was happy to further her education.  Of course, the moment she got her hands on the rake, the others began to gather like flies over roadkill.  "Whatch doin, NayNay?"  "How come he gave you that stick?"  I began to feel rather useless.  I was standing right there, but they acted like I had disappeared.  That is until NayNay pointed at me and declared proudly, "It's a rake.  He said I could use it."  Well, after about a three count of looks that screamed, "That old guy?" you would have thought I won the lottery.  They all started talking at once, asking for a turn and wanting to know my name.  They ended up taking turns raking and then putting the dead grass into the trash can.  They would have done the entire yard next door, too, but I told them to hold off on that since no one lived there.  I kind of felt like Tom Sawyer tricking the other kids into painting his fence. 


I learned a lot about them as they worked.  They go to Ave L Baptist Church.  They have a little dog.  They spend time with their Daddy as well as their Momma.  They have a lot of cousins.  They stayed in a shelter after the big hurricane. 


They also enjoyed playing with Fritz and Heidi.  Maybe a little too much.  Chris had to come out and tell them to stop teasing the dogs.  Great group of kids.  Reminded me that we have a responsibility to get to know our neighbors.  A new family just moved in across the street …


Jeremiah 1:5-8 says, "'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.'

   'Ah, Sovereign Lord,' I said, 'I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.'

   But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, "I am only a child." You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord."


Father, thank you for the privilege of meeting my new neighbors.  Keep those little guys safe in your arms.  Amen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28 – “Three small streams”


One more quick mention from our grandkids invasion last week.  The Moms warned Chris about a wet spot on the patio when she walked out to join them.  She immediately began making apologies for good ol' Fritz the Wonder Dog.  But a sly smile came over the faces of the females as they replied, "Oh, it wasn't Fritz."  Seems they had seen the incursion as it arrived from on high.  From the deck where the three oldest cousins – the boys – were playing.  In not one, but three small streams.


We saw a good friend from Denver in none other than Santa Fe on Saturday.  We went to a local church craft show at a church up there to check out the Bearded Lady Soap Factory booth.  That's the name of the Stone Family business.  They make soap and lotion stuff out of goat milk.  So something good comes out of those creatures on the "bad side" in the Jesus parable.  Our friend Mary was helping in another booth.  We haven't seen her since we left Denver, I guess.  Who would have thought it?


Chris finally found some climbing roses to plant in the back yard.  We had to go to the local nursery to locate them.  Red and pink.  I was hoping for yellow.


We also began the process of scraping the outdoor chairs so we could paint them.  They made it through Ike pretty well, but the ravages of salt water in the air are still taking their toll.  We got all four scraped, but we ran out of paint.  That means another trip to Home Depot.  Chris said we also need to put car wax on them after the paint dries.  Didn't know we were driving them anywhere.


I made a quick WalMart run the other day.  When I was standing in the checkout line I noticed the couple in front of me kind of balked at the total for their purchase.  $68.23 for 2 packages of cigarettes, a 6 pack of chewing tobacco and a cheap plastic toilet seat.  Either that was one spiffy designer toilet seat or that's one boatload of cash to pay for the next nail in your coffin.


Isaiah 66:2 says, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word."


Father, how can we be anything but humble in the face of your greatness?  But to think you would esteem us is beyond comprehension.  Amen.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 27 – “Poo bombs”


Ah, it was great to have three little boys around the house again.  Jachin was just old enough to be masterfully creative.  Micah and Zak were just old enough to follow through with the schemes they concocted together.  Reminded me of my younger days.  Much younger days.  And of course I was always just the one who would follow.  I never came up with any mischief on my own.  Right, Mom? 


Seems that the boys were outside in the back yard embroiled in an ever-escalating scenario involving pirates and space ships and force fields.  The ladies – their Moms - were out there with them, relaxing in lawn chairs and talking about whatever it is that Moms talk about when they know their children are perfectly safe, playing up on the deck. 


And then it began.  Slowly at first, then with more regularity, the Moms began to notice that objects were falling from the sky.  Nothing large, of course.  Just little bits of sand or was it a passing seagull, leaving a stray feather?  About the time Chris went out to join them the objects seemed to increase in size.  And as the girls concentrated a bit more on the situation, they heard –faintly at first – the unmistakable sounds of giggling.  Plop.  That one sounded and looked more like a clod of dirt than a particle of sand.  Giggle.  Smack.  Now that one was definitely larger than before.  Giggle.  Thud.  Thud.  Thud.  Three at once.  Full on laughter from above.  One of the Moms hastened to explain to Chris that the boys had obviously found a stash of mud upstairs, and they were sharing their new-found treasure through bombing attacks.  Chris took one look at the tiny missiles and fought to keep the grin off her face.  "That's not mud," she managed to explain.  "I'm sorry.  I must have forgotten.  I swept up a pile of dried dog mess, and …"  She didn't have to finish.  Amidst a chorus of "Oh, gross," and "Jachin," "Micah," Zakary," the Moms launched a counter attack of their own.  "Get down here and wash your hands.  That's not mud.  It's … it's … Just get down here right now." 


Dried poo bombs.  The stuff of a truly memorable spring break.


Isaiah 64:8 says, "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand."


Father, thank you for the incredible creativity of a child's mind.  It is truly inspiring.  Amen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 26 - “Snail theater: Act two”


Today allow me to complete the snail theater experience. 


Now, later on Micah made an appearance in the snail theater.  He too wanted an opportunity to see the creatures crawling and sliming.  Alas, however, the earlier crawler had awakened from his self-induced coma and had no doubt raced to safety of the grass.  And no others were active.  Undaunted, he forced his way, with some small assistance from a wilderness guide (me), into the natural habitat of the beasts – Nani's plants.  There he found more study opportunities than he knew what to do with.  Each was carefully removed from its hiding place under leaves and on stems and placed on the concrete.  Micah gave each of them about a count of four to get moving.  And the tiny slimers simply refused to cooperate.  As the count of four came down, so did Micah's sandal.  Interesting study technique.  Go right to the source of the slime.  Requires zero patience.  Takes care of Nani's varmint problem.  Micah's a hero.  Zip.  Zap.  Done.  And sadly, done with it was the moral about patience that was developing quite well with Zak and Caleb and Nani and the little slimer that was earlier making his way across the porch. 


Another moral?  How about this: Have you ever known a problem exists, but when you think about it, and feel particularly motivated spiritually to deal with it, it's not really an issue right then?  So you just forget about it and move on, right?  Next time search out the source.  Get someone to help you find it if you have to.  Dig deep and pull the slime-maker to the surface.  You know it's just eating away at you, leaf by leaf, often unseen.  Don't wait for it to slowly extend its feelers and begin to move around, leaving the trail of slime and sin in its wake, in your wake.  Crush it – confess it - before it can escape back into the recesses of your sin nature, only to resurface later again and again.  Then fill that snail-shaped void with the Holy Spirit.  Give him control of every part of your life. 


1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."


Father, give me the courage to face the slime-makers in my life and get rid of them.  Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25 - “Snail theater: Act One”


What are some of the ways god has "helped" you to develop your patience?  Holding off on an answer to prayer?  Allowing you to experience more of a particularly frustrating relationship than you cared to continue?  Making it possible for you to spend extra quality time with that certain someone whose very presence grates on your already frayed nerves?  Want an exercise in developing patience that doesn't even involve people?  We discovered just the thing for it the other day. 


Chris was out on the front porch with Caleb and it had grown quieter than usual, so I went out to check on them.  They were sitting the rocking chairs focusing intently on … something.  I opened the door to join them and was greeted with "Look DadDad.  It's a snail."  Sure enough, slithering across the front porch and leaving his telltale trail of slime behind him (or her.  How do you tell with snails, anyway?).  Caleb wasn't the least bit interested in getting anywhere near the creature.  He was doing just fine right where he was, thank you very much. 


I called back inside for Zakary to come check it out.  It's not very often that you get to watch a snail racing across such a wide expanse of nothingness, so the scientific inquiry possibilities were immeasurable.  Indeed Zak did come out.  Being the elder brother, and as such, much wiser and braver – truly a man of the world – Zak went right up to the creature.  And like the towering giant reaching down for the tiny Jack who had invaded his beanstalk, he reached out and touched the snail.  True to his nature, the snail turtled himself into his shell and waited, content to stick around in safety until the monstrosity hovering above chose to depart.  To my surprise, Zak joined him.  Not inside the shell, though that would have been an interesting experience, I'm sure, albeit slimy and gooey.  Perfect stuff for a C grade sci-fi movie. 


So Zak waited.  I wondered how long he could hold out, patiently waiting for a monumental event with the only hope of reward being the glorious chance to once again see the tiny snail antennae slowly reappear, followed by the cautious mass of snail body and the trailing gook of the slime path as he creeps across the concrete.    Answer?  Not long.  In the time it took me to walk to our kitchen to pick up the camera (my intention was to record the even for Vaughan Family historical lore), Zak was done.  The call of the Lego wild was just too much for him to hold inside.  Leaving the boarded up shell to the uncertain future, Zak returned to his prior, more exciting task of creating Lego machines and monsters.  And only Caleb remained with his Nani, each protected by the other, for neither dared to disturb the sleeping slime-monger.


But certainly there was something to be gained from the brief encounter.  Surely some lesson, some moral.  I have it: Stay with it.  It may take you awhile to get where God intends for you to be, but you can do it.  And when you do, you will be able to look back and see the slime – er – residue – er – results of your determination to stick it out.  Bad habits kicked.  Positive relationships formed.  A changed life.


Isaiah 64:4-5 says, "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.  You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways."


Father, you are amazing.  Forgive our impatience and preoccupation with the things around us.  Give us the patience of a snail to wait on your timing.  Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24 – “Holy creativity, Batman”


Sometime after dark, whenever that is now that it's Daylight Savings Time, on Tuesday night, Josh and Christi and Zak and Caleb drove up.  They are taking their own Spring Break this week, and have a day or two here in Galveston.  Cailyn was still here when they arrived, so we got a taste of the chaos yesterday promised to be like when all six of the grandkids and their parents would be here. 


And we were not disappointed.  Actually we loved pretty much every minute of it.  Especially the classic kid stories that will certainly go down in Vaughan family lore.  Some were as simple as Caleb's nod to the character quality of alertness.  He stood at the back door checking out the two puppies who were at the time happened to be standing at the back door checking out the new little human.  He has become quite the Batman aficionado thanks to the encouragement of his older brother and his cousins.  So imagine our delight when he let loose with a Robin-esque, "Holy mackerel."


Zakary impressed me with his creativity.  We have the old iron frame to an antique sewing machine that we made into a table after Hurricane Ike.  Before said natural disaster the machine was actually operational.  Now there are moving parts, but not enough to bring any element of purpose to the movements.  At least that's what we thought.  Then Zakary arrived.  He happened to be down there near the foot pedal.  Of course he's a lot closer to it than I am.  That's my only explanation for not seeing this obvious use before now.  He pondered the moving foot platform and the huge wheel that spun when he pushed it.  His eye fell on the three or four pine cones Chris has in an old wooden box nearby.  The wheel in his head joined the machine wheel in turning.  And before long the idea burst forth from the inner reaches of his subconscious.  He carefully placed one of the pine cones near the wheel in a bend of the frame that appeared perfectly suited for just such a burden.  Then, just as carefully, he began to move the foot pedal.  And the wheel began to turn, slowly crushing the pine cone until bits and pieces of those little sticky seed things began to fall off.  I was faced with a personal dilemma.  Do I try to rescue Chris' pine cone, or do I wait and see how Zak reacts to the situation?  Not even a question.  I was hooked.  What could he possibly see here?  Would he be upset at the destruction?  Would he worry about getting into trouble?


I didn't have long to wait for my answer.  His eyes lit up as the light bulb in his head proved too bright to contain.  His smile pulled me to the floor with him, as I queried, "Whatcha got going down here?"  The question opened up the floodgates of his imagination.  For no longer was this an old sewing machine ruined by evil flood waters.  It had become none other than a productive, exciting wood chip making machine.  Of course.  What was I thinking?  It all became so obvious to me as he took the pine cone and ran it through the process again and again, each time removing more and more of the offending appendages.  We gathered the newly formed wood chips and stored them in the old wooden box Nani had so conveniently provided for just that purpose.  And to top it off, we realized that not only had we made a nice handful of useful wood chips, but what was left of the pine cone formed … drumroll here, please … a miniature Christmas tree.  Amazing.  The discovery was so significant to the advancement of mankind that later in the day I saw Zakary demonstrating the wood chip removal process to his cousin.  What a bonding experience for them.  What an eye-opener for me.  Way to live outside the box, Zak.


Isaiah 63:7 says, "I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us — yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses."


Father, I sure consider these grandchildren as an incredible act of your kindness toward us.  Thank you.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23 – “Hot mess”


We got to have Cailyn for the afternoon.  Her Mommy's school is back in session, so Nani and DadDad's Day Care is back up and running as well.  Chris and I have been amazed at how much Cailyn is talking now.  This has always been one of my favorite times to watch in the life cycle of growing up.  I used to say when our boys were babies that I couldn't wait until they started talking.  Chris would warn me to be careful what I wished for.  I guess that's because it was my favorite time when I was growing up, though I was probably older than two when I started talking all that much.  Mom says I did enjoy hearing the sound of my own voice.  She likes to tell the story of how my Grandaddy (her father) used to say all the time that he was positive I was going to be a preacher, because I just loved to talk so much.  What kind of a prophecy is that to lay on a little kid?  I was pretty young then, so I don't remember any of it.  I have a hard enough time remembering what happened yesterday. 


When Cailyn walked through the door yesterday she started telling me a story that was obviously one of the funniest things she had ever heard.  In fact she ended it by laughing uproariously and saying, "I funny."  Sure wish I knew what she was talking about.  Not that it really mattered, though.  I joined right in and laughed with her. 


We got a detailed account of "Daddy church."  It seems that he and Mommy went to church and Nani and DadDad were there.  And they sing at church.  And I guess they laugh a lot, too, because that story ended in quite a bit of laughter as well.  Another good one came at nap time.  She wasn't – how shall I say this? - completely ready to take a nap yet when Nani told her it was time.  She listened halfheartedly as we read some books, but she also never stopped moving.  She knew that if she slowed down enough she would succumb to the rapidly enveloping sleepiness.  I left to answer the phone at one point, and as I returned down the hall I heard this interchange: 

Cailyn: "I tired.  I so tired."

Nani: "Yes, Cailyn, I know you are tired."  Lay your head down."

At this point Cailyn began crying.  Well, it wasn't real crying.  It wasn't even the best imitation cry I have ever heard.  It wasn't even the best imitation cry I have ever heard from Her.  I carefully peeked around the corner.  After a few seconds the crying abruptly ceased.  She sat up suddenly, drying her eyes with a dramatic flourish.  "I done.  I all done now."  And Chris replied through clenched teeth to keep from laughing out loud, "That's good that you are done.  But you still have to lay your head down."  The ensuing cry sounded much more real than the one before. 


Her (Cailyn's not Chris') new favorite words are "Hot mess."  Maybe she heard her Daddy call her Mommy "hot" one day, and her Mommy responded, "Oh, Daddy, you're such a mess."  Hey, it could have happened.  Both statements are true, aren't they?  I'm not sure she knows exactly what they are supposed to mean, but they sure are convenient for filling empty spaces in conversations.  On a date and don't know what to say next?  Hot mess.  Dinner table conversation in an uncomfortable lull?  Hot mess.  Just can't find the words to describe those deep, innermost feelings?  Hot mess.  I'm going to remember that one. 


Isaiah 60:19-20 says, "The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.  Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end."


Father, thank you for the brightness that reigns when little children are around.  It's gotta be a reflection of you.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22 – “Holy Weed ‘n’ Feed”


I spent the morning at Seaside Christian Academy yesterday.  I didn't do anything I wouldn't have done differently at my home office, though.  Stayed on the computer the whole time.  I just had to bring all the books I was using to prepare for the sermon with me.  Made for a really heavy briefcase.


Along with the sermon, I also did my article for the website and ordered the community giveaway for the Easter Sunrise Service.  I had to put it on our personal credit card.  Maybe someone else will pitch in to help us out with it, but Chris and I figured it was $535 well spent even if we end up covering it all.


As my ability to concentrate slowly departed, we moved back out into the yard.  I mowed the grass.  It is becoming more and more apparent that we need to get the mower and the guy who pushes the mower serviced.  Christina told us there is a lawn mower repair place near their Galveston house.  Chris said she heard Home Depot had a lawn mower repair department as well.  Sounds like the machine is covered.  What about the guy pushing it?  Chris did the edging, so I then went back to more weed pulling, this time in the back 40.  Now that the Weed 'n' Feed is dong its job, looks like there will be some big brown patches back there. 


I noticed something while pulling up weed after weed this time.  When I tried to do the pulling when the weeds were still green, they sure did fight back a lot.  It was like some little strong man was down there tugging back.  And even when I was able to get a hunk out, there was always the fear that some of that root remained behind to fight another day.  And in most cases, fight it did.  And for me it sure felt like a losing battle.  I needed some outside help to get this stuff under control.  I had to choose between an entire summer of fighting a never-ending war of the weeds and bringing in reinforcements.  I went on the internet and checked with all the experts.  Enter the Weed 'n' Feed.  That stuff is amazing.  It spreads out and sinks in deep to get at the roots of the evil weeds-that-grow-in-a-circle.  And in the process it feeds the good grass and encourages it to grow stronger and greener. 


Wow.  What an application.  How can farmers not be Christians?  Life is so much like that.  We fight a struggle every day with sin that is so deeply rooted in us that no matter how many times we try to get it under control, there is still just enough of that root to keep it alive and kicking.  We try and try to do better, but there's another spot … and another.  We get more and more frustrated.  And finally we reach the point of decision.  Am I going to get some help, or just live my life in this constant state of struggle?  So we cry out.  "God, help me."  We throw ourselves at the mercy of Jesus, the Life Expert.  Enter the Holy Spirit.  Like the Weed 'n' Feed, he permeates our life, reaching down past the symptoms and into the root of our problem, our sin nature.  And he changes us.  He gives us a new nature.  No longer are we controlled by the never ending root system.  Now the "good grass" has an opportunity to grow.  We get stronger and stronger.  Oh, there are still times when the weeds grow up within us, but it's so much easier to nip one or two in the bud that to face an army with a broken down lawn mower and a pair of holey gloves.


Here's a song to get stuck in your head for the day.  It was the one that grabbed me yesterday.  I don't know the title.  It's probably in there somewhere … I will fear no evil.  For my God is with me.  And if my God is with me, whom then shall I fear?  Whom then shall I fear?  O no, you never let go.


Isaiah 60:1 says, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you."


Father, thank you for never letting go.  Please be my Weed 'n' Feed again today.  Amen.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21 – “Reverse Regret”


Sunday morning was a good one for us.  We got to be in church with some great friends.  It was especially sweet because Cailyn and her Mom and Dad came.  It's always fun to hear that not always so faint cry of "DadDad" when I'm speaking at the front of the group.  I say let her come on up and see me.


After church and after watching some of the NCAA basketball game (Duke won a squeaker.  I know because I woke up when there was about three minutes left in the game), I went out to the front yard to resume pulling weeds from the lawn.  The Weed 'n' Feed nailed a lot of the offending evilness, but there are still a lot of stragglers that refuse to let go.  They don't seem to understand that they have already been defeated.  Kind of like the demons.  God has already won the war but they refuse to give up these little battles. 


Sitting around on the grass by myself gave me a lot of time to think.  Always a dangerous situation, I know.  And after waving to yet another car that passed by, a thought struck me.  "What if that person had stopped and asked me a question – any question – would I have been able to answer it and not sound stupid?"  Now that person didn't stop.  In fact, that one in particular never even looked my direction to see the wave.  But it was a question I began to ponder. 


Now there have been many occasions when I did have the opportunity to talk to someone who had questions.  "How do you get to WalMart?"  "Where do locals eat seafood?"  "What is the square root of 7,693?"  OK, no one has ever asked me that one, but it would be fun if they did.  I have no idea what the answer is, but it would be fun to throw out a wild guess and pretend like it was right.  And there have certainly been times when I have been asked a question and have not been able to answer for whatever reason.  Most of the time the reason has something to do with my not being able to hear.  Well, actually I can hear the noise, but sometimes it just sounds like noise, and I can't get it processed in time to give a reasonable answer.  At least not at the time they asked.  I can usually come up with something later on.  "Oh, I should have said …"  That's the Regret Game.  Not much fun.


But that's not what I did out there on the grass yesterday.  I began playing the "Reverse Regret" game, and I got stuck in that mode for way longer than I intended.  I came up with all kinds of reverse regrets.  Every car that drove past was a target.  What if that person stopped and got out with a gun?  Would I know what to do?  What if that person was a secret millionaire (Have you seen that new show yet?  Millionaires go under cover and volunteer for service organizations, then return and give them substantial donations) and handed me a check for a few thousand dollars?  What would I say?  What would I do with it?  What if that person asked how to become a Christian?  What if …


Reverse Regret.  It's a lot more fun than Regular Regret. 


Isaiah 58:11 says, "The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."


Father, it's almost summer here, so we'll be needing some of that need-satisfying on our sun-scorched island.  Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 19 – “Taming the trellis”


We have one of those old Franklin cast iron fireplaces.  The vent goes out through the side of the house, then turns and goes up.  The fireplace used to located in the center of one of the interior walls, and the vent used to go straight through the roof, but it always leaked.  So after Hurricane Ike we moved the fireplace to the corner and ran the vent through the side of the house as it was originally designed to do.  Our contractor had to build a frame for the part that went outside when we had it installed.  It looks weird, kind of like a spaceship on the launching pad waiting to take off.  So Chris wanted to cover it with a trellis – some of that lattice work that she could put plants near and let them grow up to cover it.


Yesterday was taming the trellis day.  It was one of those jobs that looks very simple when you begin, but the more you get into it, the more "opportunity" opens up.  We went to Home Depot to actually buy the lattice.  First hidden choice – plastic or wood?  Deep down in my heart it is very difficult for me to vote for anything other than wood, but I was determined to let Chris have whatever she wanted.  She wanted it to be white and easy, and the plastic was already white, so we almost picked plastic.  Almost.  As we talked through what we would have to do to cut it and connect it, the plastic became more trouble than it was worth.  So we bought wood. 


Then we had to cut it to fit our launching pad, so which saw to use?  I got out a small hand saw, but once I laid the 4 x 8 sheet on the ground, and measured and marked it, I saw the folly of my ways and went back for the skill saw.  Power tools.  Aar, aar.

Cut and ready to install, right?  Wrong.  When we held it up we realized that an extra piece of wood was sticking out on the top of the structure, but not on the bottom.  No doubt had something to do with the launch procedure.  But that meant we had no place on the bottom to nail to.  So we had to cut an old 2 X 4 to fit, then paint it to match the rest of the structure, then nail it up.


Now, nail it up.  Chris wanted it to fit as close to the roof as possible, so she had to hold it up while I nailed.  The two sides went in just fine.  But then there was the front.  How were we to connect it?  There was no part of the structure available to affix it to.  Nails?  Wire the three sides together?  Some combination of the two?  The frame-makers had not been exact in their measurement of the frame, and surely I didn't make any errors in measuring or cutting, so it didn't quite fit.  We had to bend it a little to get the edges to come together.  That meant nails wouldn't stay in.  I didn't have any screws small enough to hold them together, and I really didn't want to make another trip to Home Depot, so we finally settled on a combination of nails and wire.  It's up there.  And I added only two more cuts to my body full of aching muscles and joints.  Bring on the plants.


Isaiah 57:15 says, "For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'"


Father, I need some of that reviving.  Again.  Amen.