Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 29 – “Bat Cave”


We did a walking tour of the new part of the San Antonio River Walk last night.  The evening started with a Mexican food dinner at CafĂ© Rio in downtown San Antonio.  Then we parked over at First Baptist Church and began our trek.  Josh borrowed a wheel chair from the church for Mom.  We put the two boys into the stroller, and the adventure began.  Our goal was to get to the bridge under which resided the local colony of bats.  Josh had been told that it was just two bridges away.  No problem to walk it.  He should have checked his sources a bit more carefully.


I don't know for sure how far we finally walked, but estimates ranged into the miles.  Good thing we had that wheel chair.  Without it we would still be walking and stopping to rest.  The trip was very nice, though.  The weather was great, and except for occasional swarms of gnats, which we officially deemed "influxes of Bat Bait," the walk was not all that bad.  Our first tourist site was an actual dam and system of locks that the city had built for the river taxis.  It was like being at the Panama Canal.  Well, it's not like I actually know what it's like to be at the Panama Canal.  But I have read about it.  We saw one boat go through each way.  The process didn't take all that long, either.  Definitely worth stopping to watch at the dam locks.  Which reminded me of another trip we took years ago to Colorado.  We stopped at a gift house related to a local dam there.  But that is a story you will have to ask my sons about.


We continued on in search of the bats.  Finally we reached the underside of Interstate 35.  The home of the San Antonio Bats.  But they had already stepped out for the evening.  Quite the disappointment.  But Zakary spotted a man-made grotto on the other side of the river, so we decided to make a real adventure out of the evening.  He and Chris and I walked up the stairs and across the street and back down on the other side.  And there was … the Batcave.  Not the boring old home of San Antonio bat population.  No.  This was the Real Batcave.  And it was no accident that Zak was wearing his Batman t-shirt.  He was the Real Batman.  Guess that made me Robin.  Chris was the photographer.  Zak and I explored.  He climbed the walls.  We both avoided spider webs.  I think he could have stayed for another hour, but it started getting dark.  And Chris got a call from Josh making sure we knew that it was rapidly approaching bedtime.  Christi and Caleb had located us from across the river and were waving as we made the return trip.  We still had to make it back to the church before we would have a car to get us home.  But we persevered.  And we made it.


1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."


Father, thanks for the beauty we experienced tonight of that river.  And thanks for the unbridled joy we saw in Zak as he uncovered the mysteries of the Bat Cave.  Amen.

Friday, April 29, 2011

April 29 – “Unfinished”


Today we are going to make a quick trip to San Antonio.  The particular purpose for this one night excursion is to watch Zakary play in a game of t-ball.  Live.  We have seen a few pictures and even a video of his exploits.  But there is just nothing quite like watching a rousing game of t-ball with a bunch of four-year-olds who often see the exhilarating prospect of discovering an ant carrying a hundred times his body weight in a dead fly as much more exciting than waiting around for a ball to roll near them.  I can't wait.


I also revisited a book that I started several years ago about my Dad.  It's kind of a children's book about the effects of Alzheimer's.  It is loosely based on some true exploits my Dad had with me - and especially with Nathan - before he died (that would be my Dad who died, not Nathan).  It didn't take long for me to remember why I put it away the last time I worked on it.  I thought maybe I had become frustrated with the details of planning out chapters and choosing anecdotes to include.  Or maybe it was the daunting prospect of pulling everything together into some remotely cohesive plot.  It's not like it was going to be some mystery thriller.  It was just an opportunity to put on paper some of the things we went through as Dad fought with the disease.  But as I worked through another chapter I realized that it was the remembering that was bogging me down.  Oh, I recalled it well enough.  Perhaps too well.  It was the excess emotion that surrounded that entire period that came flooding back.  Not something enjoyable, to say the least.  But if I can ever get it all written down, maybe it will help out someone else who may be just entering that experience to be able to make it through.  Sometimes just knowing what to expect helps.  My hope is to work on a little bit each morning when I am at my "creative peak" – if there is such a thing.  Actually for me that just means I do better at anything in the morning.  Afternoons are when I start having arthritis flare-ups.  And by evening I have to focus a little harder to ignore the pain.  So mornings it is.  We'll see.


Zechariah 10:1 says, "Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who makes the storm clouds.  He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone."


Father, I never noticed that verse before.  Pray specifically (in season).  Acknowledge you as Creator.  Recognize you as Sustainer-Provider.  We do need some rain here in Galveston.  So does Southeast Texas.  Amen.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 28 – “It has character”


I think I'm pretty close to finishing another project.  It's one of those that I will never be completely satisfied with, so I determined to move on to the next step whether I liked it or not.  We have a little kid's rocking chair that survived Hurricane Ike relatively unscathed.  Actually we have four little kid's rocking chairs that have spent much of their careers in the attic.  I asked Chris where we got this particular one.  She didn't remember.   Now that's amazing.


Awhile back one of the rockers on this one broke off.  I tried to throw it away then, but Chris looked at me with those beautiful, sparkly eyes.  She said to me in her most seductive female-girl-language, "I wish we didn't have to just throw it away."  Which, of course translates into guy language as "Do whatever you can do to fix the thing."  So of course I sawed up a two by four and somehow shaped it into a rocker.  It didn't look all that nice, but it was functional.  For years the chair existed with that one pine rocker and the rest of the antique whatever wood the rest of it was.  It looked like one of those Pirate movie guys with a stump for a leg. 


So this project involved sanding off the old stain and applying some of the new stuff we discovered that Chris really likes.  The stain removal process was easy up to a point.  That point was when it came to the crevices between slats and into places where legs connected.  I used my drill attachment and my dremel, but the best approach proved to be old fashioned hand cranked sandpaper.  And the sanding uncovered another structural problem.  Actually it wasn't structural.  Each of the legs narrowed to a rounded top.  On one of the legs that top had, at some unknown point in the past, broken off and been reapplied with glue.  It made for some jagged edges when I got beneath the layers of stain and paint.  The top of the other leg had also broken off.  It was gone.  I managed to get the first one glued back on, but I had to hand-carve something to fit the second.  That took three days.  So much for an easy weekend project.  But once I got that piece carved and glued on and sanded level with the rest of the leg, I was finally able to start staining.  That's what I finished yesterday.  Well, all but the underside of the rockers and a few places under the seat.  I can't decide if it would be beneficial to seal those areas or not.  The finished project as it stands looks a lot different than it did when I began.  It's not breathtakingly beautiful.  In fact it still … has character.  I guess that's like saying your blind date has a great personality.  But Cailyn has been waiting patiently to sit in "my chair."  So somebody likes it.  And there's just something to be said for things you have had a personal hand in.  It doesn't matter that they are ugly or uneven or pieced together.  In the grand scheme of things – the big picture – it is still a rocking chair.  It has a purpose.  And I helped get it there.  Feels good.


Colossians 1:16-17 says, "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."


Father, I'm glad you created.  That goes without saying.  I'm stunned at the purpose behind it.  So that we could love you.  Wow.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 27 – “A maintenance plan: milk and a movie”


We went to WalMart yesterday.  Exciting entry, huh?  My list included but two things, both critical to continued participation on the planet.  First and foremost, chocolate milk.  Since the grandkids have discovered that DadDad jeeps a stash of the good stuff – the kind that you don't have to mix to create – it has become difficult to maintain adequate levels of reserves to cover my daily recommended dosage.  I use it to assist in the administration of medical maintenance (taking my morning collection of nine pills).  At least Chris requires that they mix it with some regular milk.  Something about it being too rich otherwise.  Pass me some of that Too Rich.


The second item on my list was nothing so crucial to maintaining health and pain control.  Instead this one would provide a sense of partial closure to an installment of life experience that has thus far been gratifying.  Partial closure?  Because it only portrays the first part of the concluding event in the history of … (drumroll here) … the Harry Potter series.  That's right.  The next to last Harry Potter movie hit the WalMart shelves last Friday.  Chris and I went to the theater to see it, so this purchase was strictly a nostalgic one, a reminder of that romantic interlude.  Besides, now I can watch it with subtitles and see what all nuances of language I missed because of hearing aid operational fluctuations.


We did add an item or two to the cart to supplement my list.  Chris got some plant food.  Not that she intends to violate the mandatory save water order we are under.  The pipe that provides the island with water burst over on the mainland.  We aren't supposed to do anything other than drink it or cook with it or bathe in it until Thursday or so.  We grabbed a few pieces of Easter candy, though not much was left.  It was down to 75% off.  And then we went to check out.


And that's where my Key Event of the Day happened (Sounds like a segment on Sports Center).  As we reached our turn in the check out line, the checker greeted us warmly and asked, "So how did your class go?"  OK.  I was bumfuzzled.  She was a regular who has been there a long time, so I recognized her, but only one other time has a clerk recognized me back.  That was when I brought in a fried turkey leg one year to the clerk who checked us out when bought the raw turkey.  I was sure she was referring to something I had said at an earlier meeting, but I just couldn't make a connection.  She obviously saw my distress, and hastened to help me out.   "The class you taught on the Fruit of the Spirit."  That was it.  The memory rushed back like a flood.  She had checked me out when I bought the many different kinds of fruit for that sermon a few weeks ago.  We laughed and talked about how nasty mangos and papayas taste.


And I finally saw the results of actually being nice to the person checking you out at the grocery store.  I'll look for her again next time we are in.  We are getting low on fresh pineapple …


Zechariah 8:16-17 says, "These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this, declares the Lord."


Father, help me to stay alert to the real people all around me.  They matter to you.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26 – “The last name phenomenon”


Cailyn made a discovery yesterday.  At least we found out about it yesterday.  She discovered that she could say the word, "Vaughan."  I'm not sure what began the conversation between her and her Mom and her Nani.  I was in the other room working on the computer.  But all of a sudden I heard her say, quite clearly, "No, Nani.  I not Cailyn Vaughan.  Daddy is Vaughan."  Her Daddy is indeed called Vaughan by his coworkers at the fire station.  It was too good a situation to pass up, though, when Chris brought her into the office to show off.  We made the rounds of all of us, asking if our names were "DadDad Vaughan," or "Nani Vaughan" or "MoeMoe Vaughan" or "Mommy Vaughan."  It seemed that we could all be "Vaughan" somehow, but she was adamantly not "Cailyn Vaughan."  I think calling us Vaughan was so absurdly ridiculous to her that it became part of the game she assumed we were playing.  Kind of like calling us "Fork" or "Meatloaf" or "Sniggleberry Tootlepants."


Great fun.  Reminded me of the time a few weeks ago when she found one of Jachin or Micah's action figures (NOT a doll) on the shelf in the office.  She got very excited, and held it up for me to see.  "Look, DadDad.  It's Bacon Man."  At first I thought she was saying something else and my hearing aids were causing something to be lost in the translation.  So I asked her to tell me again who that guy was.  Very clearly, and with more than a little consternation at her DadDad's obvious ignorance, she replied, "I told you, DadDad.  It's Bacon Man."  OK.  I like bacon as much as the next guy.  Who was I to tell her differently?


But back to the last name phenomenon.  I got to thinking.  Scary, I know.  But in Cailyn's little world, she is the only Cailyn there is.  All she has ever heard herself called is Cailyn.  Why should she think any else?  And she hears her Dad called "Vaughan" all the time.  That's obviously who he is.  I wonder if she was hearing us call her "Cailyn Daddy"?  How silly would that sound to her?  She's a girl, he's a boy.  She's little, he's big.  She's nothing like him.  In her eyes that would make me be "DadDad Daddy."  And Chris, "Nani Daddy."  And April, "Mommy Daddy."  How confusing is that?  Taking the name of someone else as part of your own.  Kind of like people wanting to be called "Christian" when it's obvious they are nothing like Christ.  Ouch.


Acts 11:25-26 says, "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."


Father, I am proud to be called by your name.  Help me act like you so people won't just laugh as if it were a game.  Amen.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 25 – “Resurrection Day Reports”

What a day. Aside from the obvious, still-imposing theological implications of Resurrection Day, we had quite an amazing experience down here on the West End of Galveston Island yesterday. Our annual sunrise service on the beach by Seaside was set to begin at 6:30. By 6:00 all was pretty much ready to go, and the preparatory prayer walk had begun. The final tune-ups by the praise team and last minute resets of the portable sound system's amplifiers were completed. Hosts began handing out songsheets and the small gifts we give to those who attend. This year's gift was a pin in the shape of a crown of thorns. They fit perfectly with our theme for the day, Jesus as King. The fifty or so chairs we brought down were soon filled. Others brought their own beach chairs and blankets. Many chose simply to stand.

Some were there for the first time and wondered what to expect. A few claimed to have been to all seventeen. Most were counting the years they have experienced the event, but always in terms of the amazing displays of God's grace that we have seen through the years. "Remember the year that it rained all over Galveston County except right here in Jamaica Beach?" Or "How about the time the family of dolphins began playing in the water right over there?" Or, "Was it really only one time that it got rained out? But we did still have the service inside, right?" Or, "I remember the moon still in the sky when the sun came up." Or, "Will there be baptisms again this year?" Or, "It's pretty windy, but the weather is the best I've seen in years at one the services."

Gradually the beachfront that had been dotted with a few people preparing for praise began to take on a different look. Cars were backing up on FM 3005 trying to make the turn onto the road leading to the beach. A bus pulled over and released its load of worshippers. More cars. Others walked from nearby beach homes. Word reached the ladies preparing the breakfast. We invite all the attenders to join us for breakfast after the service. They began to worry that we might not have enough food, but they decided to have faith. God has always come through in the past. By the time the service began we had run out of the 400 song sheets that had been printed. And still people were coming.

Understand that this sunrise event has never been an intricately designed, professional quality production. We are a small church. We just set up a trailer so a few folks can stand on it, put up a portable sound system, and start singing. We used to use guitars and even recorded music, but the salt air took too great a toll. Now we literally just sing. Acapella. And everyone joins in. I mean everyone. Yesterday, every time the group broke into song we were joined by the screeching of seagulls flying over. Praise from the creation. Any sound lifted in praise is beautiful music to the Creator. I share a quick story or object lesson and tell how to become a Christian. We read the Easter story. And we have the first baptisms of the year in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yesterday we had five people scheduled for baptisms, two teenagers and three adults. Then, as we were gathering to enter the water, a gentleman from Canada introduced himself to me and asked if he could be baptized. I talked to him about his relationship with Jesus, and invited him to join us. The six of us entered the water and the huge crowd gathered at the shore to watch. And just before I called the first one over to me, another lady exited the crowd and trudged out into the water toward us. She, too, wanted to be baptized. I talked to her as well, and our total then grew to seven. Perfect.

I baptized a husband, and he helped me baptize his wife. One of the teenagers had been trying to arrange a time when all of his family could attend, but schedules could never come together. He finally notified them that this was the day. It was important that he do this, and he hoped they could be there, but it would happen. The other teen had reminded me every time she saw me for at least a month that she was ready. Her face glowed when she came out of the water. The Canadian threw his hands up into the air. And every time the crowd on the beach roared its approval with cheering and applause.

I don't know how many of the hundreds joined us for breakfast, but it was a bunch. And the food? After the service it just seemed to multiply. People who attend just this one service every year brought along food to share. Others had some in their cars. I'm pretty sure God did some supernatural multiplying as well, because we had plenty left over to feed the 60 or 70 people who came later for the 10:00 communion service. We even left some for the students at Seaside Christian Academy to have some breakfast this morning. I didn't measure, but 12 baskets full was not out of the question.

I met a couple who had just moved here from Tomball. They said they will be back next Sunday. They plan to make Seaside their church. And she wants to be baptized. I saw numerous families we haven't seen in quite awhile. The triplets who came when they were little guys were there. Grandmother said they were all ready to be baptized but since they hadn't notified us ahead of time, they didn't just walk out. She said they would call to set up a time.

The first ever Easter Egg hunt was very successful. People brought so many eggs that the kids' baskets and bags were overflowing with goodies. And the 10:00 service was packed with people as well. And I actually had a guy tell me the joke about the guy whose mother-in-law died in Israel. It cost $50 for burial there, or $5000 to send her back to the states. He chose to send her back, because he had heard stories about this one guy they buried there who rose from the dead after three days. Ah, Resurrection Day humor.

I know holiday services are the exception rather than the rule, but something about yesterday made me think that God just might be on the move out on the West End of the island. I think it's time for us to get in on this bit of advice:

Philippians 3:13-14 says, "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Father, you had quite a day yesterday. Keep them coming, OK? Amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 23 – “Resurrection Day”


Long day ahead.  Resurrection Day Sunrise service on the beach this morning and regular communion service at 10.  Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.


We had our Easter family lunch yesterday.  Josh and Christi couldn't be here, but everybody else made it.  Grand occasion.  Brisket, potato salad, beans, corn, all by Nana.  Chocolate pie by Aunt Christina.  We almost missed the chocolate pie.  She forgot to mention that it was in the fridge. 


The big event of the day, if you don't count getting to eat that brisket and chocolate pie, was the annual dyeing of the Easter eggs.  It has been a family tradition for a lot of years now.  And whoever happens to be around the Saturday before Easter is always welcome to join us.  And one of the unusual things Chris does every year is saving one of the dyed eggs.  Not in the refrigerator.  She has a basket or two of Easter eggs from years past over on the counter.  As long as they don't get broken, the insides slowly rot away, leaving what appears to be one of those china collectable eggs.  A lot of her old ones even made it through Hurricane Ike, although the dye job is no longer discernable to the naked eye.  I'm sure Chris knows what each one says, though.  And what happens if one of them breaks?  We found that out when we lived in Denver. 


Chris and I were in the front yard when the boys came dashing out the door as fast as they could run, screaming and gagging.  It seems they had been playing a rousing game of indoor soccer, and one of the goals ended up right in the middle of the bowl of old eggs.  One after another they started popping – no, exploding is a better word for it.  The rotten egg stuff ended up all over the walls and floor and other eggs.  Needless to say, Chris made the boys clean it all up.  I stayed outside.  There is nothing that smells quite as nasty as rotten eggs. 


After the dyeing we headed out to the front yard.  To everyone's surprise, the Easter Bunny had been delivered to our house on a fire engine, and he had hidden eggs all over the yard.  The kids had a great time looking for the treasures, and we only found 2 after everybody left.  Hope that's all.


A rousing game of wiffle ball spearheaded by Jachin continued throughout the afternoon.  Aunt April proved to be quite impressive with the bat.  Kel later sort of challenged Seaside to an afternoon of softball with Faith Bible Church some time.  That would be fun.  When everyone finally departed for home and naps, we noticed that it was very quiet.  The calm before the Resurrection Day storm.


John 11:25-26 says, "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'"


Father … yes.  Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 23 – “A dream to remember”


Both of my hearing aids are in the repair shop.  So please don't get offended if I appear to be ignoring you for the next two weeks or so.  I either don't hear you, or I can hear sound that isn't forming itself into intelligible conversation.  I'll do my best to concentrate.  On the positive side, the doc cleaned out a ton of wax from Mom's ears.  She stayed up until almost 10:30 watching the Astros game simply because, as she said, "I could hear it."


We did get to go to Luby's after the hearing aid trip.  I had fried shrimp.  Just like old times.  Except they gave me more shrimp.  And they were less tasty. The chocolate pie was OK, though.  And Mom seemed happy.  Except she kept sneaking food onto Chris' plate (like Chris didn't notice a big old hunk of broccoli and then a sweet potato).  Mom finally pushed her chocolate pie away and took a deep breath, so we asked her what was up.  She said she was just trying to keep up with us, but she couldn't eat any more.  I didn't know there was a race on.  I could have finished much faster.


I had one of those incredibly memorable dreams last night.  Now it's important to remember the promise Chris and I have made to pray for anyone in our dreams that we can remember when we wake up.  Here's the essence of the nocturnal vision.  We were in San Diego (no idea where that came from), waiting for a ship to arrive.  On that ship were some of the boys who played on an old basketball team I used to coach when Josh was playing.  A few of the guys were already in the room with us.  Josh Hahn, from Denver (he and our Josh excelled as varsity defensive specialists on the half court press as 8th graders).  Joel Prebilsky, from Pearland (he and Josh were the starting guards on the Pearland team.  When they were seniors they ran the game from the floor after we realized our bench calls had been scouted, and that resulted in our first ever win against a public school team).  Brian Lemon, from that Pearland team (he was one of the two post players.  He led the team in blocked shots). 


Josh Vaughan was engaged in a very serious discussion with the Brian Williams, the other post player on that team (he had the best drop step for a layup shot that I have ever seen in a high school player).  I don't know where the other guys on that team were.  I presume they were on board the ship we were waiting for.  Anyway, Josh and Brian were talking seriously about the Navy team we were to play when everyone arrived.  Josh had arranged the game with them on the promise that we would help them load cargo on a ship.  Brian couldn't see the wisdom of that move.  Josh reassured him, and then added, "We will take their hearts and then serve them back to them on a silver platter."  A bit harsh, don't you think, Josh?


A noise outside alerted us all to someone's arrival.  As we went outside and into the huge field in the front yard, a car drove up.  Out came Bruce Edwards.  Now he had nothing to do with the basketball team.  He was the very loud and raucous pastor of the church I worked at in Arlington.  And behind him was Chico Richardson, one of the people from our Langwood Baptist Church Era.  He started to shake my hand, but we ended up in a hug instead.  Guess they were to be fan support. 


Then, a movement from the other side of the field caught my eye.  There, running full tilt and dressed head to toe in fire fighter bunker gear, was Danny Carr, looking just the age he was (jr. high) when I was his youth pastor in the early 70's.  He was dragging with him the business end of a fire hose hooked up to the nearest hydrant.  Close behind him was the 4-year-old version of Jonathan Edwards, Bruce's youngest son.  He was also dressed in full fire fighting gear, and he carried one of those foam spraying fire extinguishers.  And it didn't take long for Danny and Jonathan to start what became a free for all in the field. 


The last thing I remember was a faint female cry from somewhere trying to remind us that it was 1:00 in the morning and we would wake up the neighborhood if that nonsense continued.  Who could that have been?  I'm still not sure, but I think it was either Chris or Mary Scoggins.  That's when I woke up.  And it was 1:10 a.m., so whoever it was got the time right.  With so many names to remember, I went right into the office and jotted them all down.  I told Chris about the dream when we woke up, and it led to a major walk down memory lane.  We mentioned name after name of people we remembered from the different periods of our life together.  It was kind of fun.  Certainly a dream to remember.


Acts 2:17 says, "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."


Father, I know this particular old man's dream was not the kind you were talking about, but come on back anyway.  Whenever you are ready.  Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

April 22 – “Beaned”


Jachin and Micah spent the night here Wednesday night because their little brother Josiah had surgery to implant some tubes in his ears yesterday.  Bionic ears.  Both of the other boys had already been through it, so they knew it was really not that big a deal.  But their Mom and Dad both wanted to be there for some reason.  So they got to hang out with us.


And of course that meant Thursday early morning baseball.  Sandwiched in between getting Mom to water therapy and preparing the study for home group.  As hard as it sometimes is to get my energy level up for a session of creative baseball with a SEVEN-year-old (hey, I remembered how old he is now, didn't I?) and a four-year-old, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.  My motivation?  I remember when I was ten, eleven, and twelve years old.  Those were my glory years in Little League.  I spent every possible moment doing something related to baseball.  Collecting baseball cards, trading cards with friends, throwing a rubber ball against the side of the garage (it started out as against the side of the house, but for some reason my Mom very gently requested that I redirect the constant pounding.  Can I help it if the only wall without a window was right next to where my Dad had to sleep when he was on late shift?), playing "save the home run" out by the back fence, listening to the Colt .45's on the radio (that's the antique name for the Astros), and playing catch in the back yard with my Dad on days when he didn't have to sleep (that would make my Dad in his early 40's at the time, so I've got fifteen or twenty years of aging on him in doing the baseball with the kids thing).  Our boys played some baseball, but they never really fell in love with it.  Kel enjoyed soccer and basketball.  Josh played soccer, but he fell in love with basketball.  Nathan did the soccer/basketball thing, too, but he also had to make time for surfing and the various other "creative activities" he and his buddies came up with. 


So I was in the front yard playing a rousing game of baseball.  The rules were interesting.  No bats were involved.  I was actually kind of surprised at that.  The last time they came over Jachin brought an old wooden bat he had found in their garage.  The relic from the days of the ancients was fascinating to him.  He thought all bats were like his "allumeum" one.  But for our game, no bats were needed.  The catcher would toss or roll the ball toward the fielder and the runner would circle as many bases as he could before he was tagged out or the fielder got control of the ball and called time out.  The game was getting pretty intense.  Nana had joined in, and Micah was showing his speed as a base stealer.  Jachin was catching and I was the pitcher.  A grounder to the right of the mound.  No way could I get back in time to tag Micah out.  Safe at first.  Time.  Nana steps up.  Another grounder, snagged by the fielder, but no, again too late to get either runner.  Safe at first and second.  I tossed the ball back to Jachin. 


At that point I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see what was happening.  A stray dog, perhaps?  A tree branch swaying in the wind?  A neighbor stopping by for a visit?  Micah noticing the group of ants plying their trade in the palm tree?  No.  None of those.  Micah was involved, though.  Apparently he was off to the races again, stealing a base.  The movement was not lost on his observant older brother, however.  Without hesitation Jachin did what any good catcher would do in the face of an attempted larceny in his district.  He threw the ball to the fielder.  Did I mention that I was seeking the source of the movement at that particular moment?  How do you spell the sound of the ball hitting thudding against the unguarded forehead of the old man not paying attention?  Thwack.  Plunk.  Thfft.  Yep.  I was hit in the head by the throw from Jachin.  Beaned.  Smacked me in the forehead and rolled into the flower bed.  It didn't hurt all that much, but I didn't move.  Just grabbed my head.  I didn't want him to think he hurt me.  He's pretty sensitive.  I needn't have worried.  Chris' laughter as she rushed over to console me was certainly enough to encourage him.


Habakkuk 3:2 says, "Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."


Father, work some miracles among the "little guys" of our world today.  And it would sure be nice if I got to see them.  Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 21 – “Sanding”


I have another project going.  So far all it involves is sanding.  We have accumulated over the years four little kids' size rocking chairs.  One of them actually belongs to our niece Sarah, but she just turned 21 and is in college in Virginia, so I don't think she wants it right now.  Cailyn uses it on a regular basis, because it does have that certain girlie charm to it. 


Another one came from my olden day past.  Very olden day.  It was one my brothers and I used to sit in.  Not that I particularly remember actually sitting in it.  It is a tiny red one with a cane seat that has been covered, no doubt by my grandmother, in material that prominently features the name of that incredibly hot movie star and singing sensation, Roy Rogers.  It's about Josiah's size, although he is rapidly outgrowing it. 


Speaking of Josiah, he is scheduled for surgery today to put tubes in his ears.  His two big brothers, Jachin and Micah, got the renowned privilege of spending the night with Nana and DadDad last night.  They should be awake soon.  And then the day will truly begin …


I don't remember where the other two chairs came from.  I'm sure Chris does, but she's asleep right now.  Not something worthy of waking her up to ask.  One of them I'm pretty sure we bought along the way.  We painted it a kind of blue-green color.   Cailyn uses that one to sit in and watch when I am working in the garage.  The other one is definitely an antique.  And it has obviously seen some difficult days.  It used to have arms on it, but they are gone in favor of filled in holes and what I think are supposed to be knobs built up from wood putty.  Only one of the knobs still exists, and it is loose.  I'm planning to check out Home Depot to see if I can find something there that I can glue on instead.  That one we chose to stain.  Very dark.  And that one is my current project.  I picked it because I thought it would be the easiest to finish and get out of the way.  Right.


The stain came right off.  In fact I experimented with several different sanding techniques along the way, including the sanding attachment on my drill and my dremel.  They both seemed to dig in too far, leaving pits, so I passed on them in favor of the old-fashioned way – plain old sandpaper.  But whatever the paint is underneath the stain is a pain. Very determined to stick around.  So far the most productive tool has been a sanding block.  I have become determined not to use an electric sander.  After all, it's cool to do stuff by hand.  Until your hand gets raw and bleeding.  Now that brings up a question for the sages (or the ages).  How are you supposed to hold a piece of sandpaper?  Do you fold it over?  Then your hand is directly on the rough surface and it gets sanded right along with wood underneath.  But if you don't fold it, your finger gets really hot from the friction.  Catch 22.  That's why I started using the sanding block as much as I could.  And how do you know when to change the piece of paper?  It still produces sawdust, but is it really doing the job?  And what about the type of paper?  I figured out that the lower the number, the coarser the rub.  And the coarser the rub, the faster the stuff comes off.  But the higher the number, the better the wood looks when you get done.  At some point you're supposed to switch, I guess.  Who knew such a simple task would involve so many decisions?


So right now here's what I do – sand until my thumb is raw and bleeding, put a bandaid on it, then stop for a few days to let it heal.  And while it heals, I can't even type straight.  Not that I ever did, but I do use my thumb as one of the five or six total fingers I use when I type (usually three on each hand).  I can go pretty fast, but I have to look at the keyboard.  Typing.  I guess that's a story for another day.  Meanwhile, the chair has waited this long …


Nahum 1:7 says, "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in him"


Father, watch over little Josiah today during his surgery.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 20 – “Culinary memories”


That solo drive into the far reaches of Western Houston on Monday gave me much time to ponder the mysteries of past excursions into mysterious places.  For as I traveled into those lands unknown I passed numerous franchises of food that brought back fond remembrances of times past. 


Who could forget the chicken fried steak with cream gravy offered at the Black-eyed Pea?  We used to go to one in Pasadena after basketball games with one of our arch-rivals.  They would block off tables right down the center of the restaurant and we would push them all together.  It resulted in one huge family-style meal with the team and their families. 


And of course.  There had to be one somewhere.  Denney's.  Also a favorite basketball hangout after games.  At least the one over at Baybrook Mall was.  That one had two key appeals.  First, we could always be sure that it was open.  Sometimes our games would take us far, far away from our home base, which was technically Pearland.  But since all our guys were homeschooled, we hailed from all over the south-of-Houston area.  Denney's at Baybrook was on the way home for virtually all of us.  Secondly, Moons over My Hammy.  That was my favorite dish at Denney's.  Still is, but we rarely go any more.  Chris was kind of burned out.  I think the last time we went to a Denney's was when the team surprised me at a reunion thing awhile back.


I felt a lump rise in my throat at the next one.  Luby's.  What memories we have there.  Actually the memories are all related to the Luby's that used to be in Galveston.  It's Healthy Chinese Buffet now, so all semblance of tasty food has been removed, except maybe on weekends when they serve fried shrimp.  I'm not much on Oriental food of any kind, as you might have surmised.  We used to go to Luby's every Tuesday for lunch.  Guarded that time jealously, too.  Anybody knew where to find me on Tuesday around 11:30, and they often did.  It wasn't at all unusual for us to have guests at our table.  We started the tradition back before my Dad died.  We would meet my Aunt Betty and cousin Tammy there.  The servers knew us well.  In fact when we entered the door, someone would holler out to me, "Do you want your fried shrimp today?"  And the icebox chocolate or key lime pie was the best.  It felt very small-town-sy.  Definitely a sad, sad day when it closed.  Since then we have tried Golden Corral, and we have even seen a few of the old regulars there.  But it's just not Luby's.  I guess no place will ever be.  Time spent with family and friends is irreplaceable.


There was one unusual place, though.  I can honestly say I've never been to one of those, or even seen one before.  I can't reproduce what they had as the name of the place, but the description said Phoenician food.  What?  What in the world is Phoenician food?  I don't begrudge the Phoenicians a specialty brand name, but what, exactly would it be?  Special sauce?  Camel burgers?  Oasis-grown sesame seed bread?  I don't think that's a place I'll be trying out anytime in the near – or far – future.


Matthew 6:31-34 says, "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."


Father, thank you for the Luby's time you gave Chris and me and our boys to spend with my Dad and Mom and Aunt Betty and Tammy.  It was priceless.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19 – “A window into grief”


I had to drive to Houston by myself yesterday.  The interment part of the funeral I was officiating was at a cemetery in Houston west of the outer loop.  Chris was going to go and drive as she usually does, and Nathan was going to get Mom to water therapy.  But Nathan got sick.  Not a very common occurrence.  So Chris stuck around to make the Mom deliveries.


Ever wonder just what happens around a cemetery?  I mean the background stuff that we all know takes place, but very few of us ever get to see.  Without betraying any confidences, here are a few notes on my observations, a brief window into grief.


The cemetery was one of the best kept and best run I have ever been in.  One of the family members told me it had been there for years.  He remembered when it was the only thing out there amid fields and forests.  The grounds were immaculate.  The staff was very helpful.  Even when the family decided they wanted to stay until the casket was lowered into the ground.  I have seen a family do that before.  It is not all that common, but it does happen.  Not everybody stuck around.  Some left the premises.  Others just meandered off to where they couldn't actually see what was happening.  Pastor protocol dictated that I stay close by until the closest family was prepared to leave. 


When the grounds crew arrived, they quickly removed the grass-like tarps and rolled away the awning.  They slowly lowered the casket into the waiting concrete tomb, and then removed the lowering apparatus.  A bulldozer brought in the concrete cap.  It must have weighed a ton.  It took awhile to get the cap set just right, but with a tool created just for that purpose, the crewman got the job done quickly and efficiently.  Finally a tractor backed the container full of dirt up to the grave.  At that point the family asked that they wait a few minutes.  Each one who wanted to then took a small portion of dirt and dropped it onto the casket.  There was nervous chatter here and there, along with a few jabs among the older cousins like, "here's your chance to throw dirt on grandma."  And "It'd wouldn't be the first time."  And finally, "Yeah, but it's the first time you'll get away with it."  All in all it was a healthy approach to closure and acceptance of death. 


Micah 7:18-19 says, "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."


Father, once again I pray for a grieving family.  Walk with them one day at a time.  Amen.