Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31 – “On the road again”


We did have our Memorial Day cookout this year.  We did it on the Saturday before because we thought Kel and his family and Nathan and his family could all be here.  Kel's group couldn't make it, but Nathan and April and Cailyn came over.  When Chris was growing up her family always had a big reunion-type gathering on Memorial Day with her fifty or so first cousins and aunts and uncles.  She remembers those times fondly, even though we weren't able to go to a lot of them after we were married.  She really enjoys our little family get-togethers.  Guess they remind her of the happy parts of her childhood. 


I fired up the gas grill and slapped on some chicken.  It burned really hot for the first fifteen minutes for some reason, so the outside got charred up.  By the time the prescribed hour was up, the meat was done.  Really done.  Chris likes it burnt like that, but I apologized anyway.  How do you know when all that salmonella - or whatever disease that is in chicken - is cooked out?  Everybody was kind to the cook, though.  The sausage turned out really good.  And all the fixin's were great, but of course they were.  Chris fixed them.


Our task for today is to figure out when we can leave for Peggy's funeral.  The service is tomorrow morning, so we will leave sometime today and stay the night with Cary and KayLynn in Arlington.  At least we didn't have to be on the road yesterday with all the holiday traffic.  Christina said she would get with April and between them they would take care of Mom while we are gone.  Mom wanted to ride along even though she didn't know Peggy.  But we were concerned that the quick drive up and back would take too much of a toll on her.  Just going to church on Sundays has begun to tire her so much that she takes an extra nap or two on Mondays to recover.  We assured her that when we go to San Antonio for Zakary's birthday party she can go.


I sure have some mixed emotions about going to another funeral.  This is the fourth one in just a couple of months.  I'm excited to see people we haven't seen in awhile.  Of course I'm sad about the circumstances.  I do know Peggy is at peace where she is now.  No more pain.  Always a comforting thought to me.  No pain.  That'll be nice.


Proverbs 10:9 says, "The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out."


Father, I want to be a man of integrity, but not because I may get caught otherwise.  I want it to just be who I am.  Like you.  Amen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30 – “Memorial Day”


Today is Memorial Day.  I was excited to see the news report the other day about the huge group of people who gathered at the airport to welcome home six different plane loads of veterans with cheers and thanks.  And the field of crosses that church in LaMarque puts up to honor vets is impressive.  It's also really good to see the little flags popping up all over cemeteries. 


Are you supposed to fly your flag on the front of the house?  Think I will.  Today we pay homage to the veterans we know who have served in the military for our country.  I never did that.  Serve, I mean.  All through high school in the late 60's I saw news reports of protests and peace rallies.  The Vietnam War was not a popular post-high school activity, to put it mildly.  My older brother got his draft lottery number, and he was pretty close to the top.  But he got a deferment because he was going to college.  They put everybody's birth date on a ping pong ball and put them into a big bingo machine.  The balls came out one at a time, and that was the order in which you were drafted into military service.  Scientific approach, huh?  My draft number was kind of middle of the pack as I recall.  I had one friend who did serve in Vietnam.  He did his best to hide that information from people when he got back.  He was embarrassed to be associated with the war.  Very sad.  It was not a happy time. 


It was also at that time that I first became a Christian.  I really struggled with the idea of being a soldier.  I honestly didn't think I could kill anybody, and I wasn't clear on whether or not I should as a Christian.  I even got one of the government's conscientious objector forms and was trying to figure out if that's what I was.  But by the time I graduated, the war had just ended, and the first big change was to abolish the draft.  Even though I didn't serve, it's still difficult for me to talk about that war.  There are several movies that came out about the war that I still haven't seen, even though they won all kinds of awards.  I remember comparing my lack of desire to even talk about it with my Dad's sense of pride at having been there.  He loved the John Wayne war movies.  The first movie he ever took my brother and me to was about John Wayne hitting the beach on D-Day.  I wish my Dad had talked more about his World War II experiences.  He joined the Coast Guard right after high school and ended up working on a troop transport ship ferrying soldiers to the war in the Pacific.  I don't think I ever told him, but … thanks, Dad.


Proverbs 10:7 says, "The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot."


Father, honor our memories of people we love who stood up for us to protect and defend.  Watch over the families of those who are doing it now.  Amen.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29 – “Peggy Howard"

Another dear friend of ours died last night.  This one really hit close to home.  Well, at least close to our age.  Peggy was about the same age as us.  We knew her from our time at South Oaks Baptist Church in Arlington, but our relationship with Peggy and her husband Richard continued after we moved to Denver.  And it has always been fun seeing them when we have been back to the area. 


Peggy was (and still is – just relocated to heaven) one of the least intimidate-able people I have ever known.  In fact she could not only hold her own with just about anybody, she could rear up and do some intimidating herself.  I sure never wanted to get on her bad side.  She loved her kids: Jason, who always came across as the super intelligent guy, even when he was just a kid.  Drew, the youngest, who always found some way to get into mischief and ended up in the military.  And the only girl, Katherine, who became quite proficient at being a mommy herself.  Several times.  We never got to know any of the grandkids, but with a grandmother like Peggy and a softie granddad like Richard, they have to be great kids.


Richard and Peggy are the kinds of friends that made you feel like family.  There are not all that many people in our lives that Chris and I feel close enough to that we will take them up on an offer to spend the night.  We have stopped at the Howard residence several times.  In fact, there are two things I think about right away when I think about Peggy.  One happened on one of our return trips to Denver after a visit to Galveston.  We stayed the night with Richard and Peggy.  Katherine's schnauzer had had puppies and they were in the process of selling the little ones.  Now I decided a long time ago – after a bout with an  incredibly goofy dog we had named Taffy who used to sleep in her water bowl (but that's another story) – that I did not ever want another dog that had to be taken out for a haircut.  Way too much trouble and expense.  Of course Peggy sweet-talked Chris while we were there, and sure enough, we ended up with another traveling companion for the trip to Denver.  And I have to concede, Peggy and Katherine, Gretchen was a pretty good little dog.


The second thing I remember about the Howard's involved a rite of passage.  One of the nights we were at their house Peggy assigned us our quarters.  For the first time in my life I got to sleep in a water bed.  I don't remember which of the kids was displaced, but I do remember sloshing around and doing my best to make Chris seasick.  Great fun.  Thanks, Peggy, for helping me jump past that significant hurdle in my life journey. 


We shared some Bible studies and watched some soccer games.  We compared notes on kids' behavior and how to discipline without cracking up laughing.  We laughed a lot and cried some.  We were friends.  No, let me change that.  We still ARE friends.  I'll see you again later on, Peggy.  In the meantime … have fun.


Revelation 21:4 says, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."


Father, thank you for giving Peggy just the right healing.  The best kind there is.  The kind that lasts forever.  Amen.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 28 – “LuLu”


We got our lawn mower back the other day.  Yesterday was the day to try out.  Sadly, it works great.  Oh, wait.  Is that a good thing?  Now I once again have a weekly date with it.  Welcome to Galveston summer. 


Yesterday I also got a phone call from a girl I went to high school with.  She wanted to know if I was really "had a church."  That's kind of a code for asking if there is any truth to the sordid rumor that I am a pastor.  She had pure motives, though.  She wanted to know of a church that she could tell her son to try out since he is living in Galveston now.  She said he grew up in Santa Fe (I assumed that's where she now lived), and attended a Baptist Church then.  We talked about Seaside for awhile.  She liked that it had a community church feel to it.  When I mentioned that it was in Jamaica Beach, she was kind of disappointed.  She said that she had hoped it would be the Island Church over on Jones Drive. 


That was intriguing.  I asked why.  She said she was at her son's house and he lives on a street called Yucca, which is very near that church.  I chuckled and told her I lived on Sycamore Street.  She obviously didn't know our neighborhood.  "Where's that?" she asked.  "It's the next street north of Yucca."  Thereafter ensued one of those rapid-fire comparison conversations.

"Next street north?  Really?"

"Really.  Which house does he live in?"

"It's the one with the big motor home garage and the Doberman named LuLu just across from that Zion Lutheran Church.  Do you know where that is?"

Again, she had no idea I have not only lived here for sixteen years in this house, but I also grew up in the neighborhood.  "Of course I know where it is.  And not only that, I know the Doberman.  He is the one that drives out two little dogs crazy every time he goes into the back yard.  Do you mean that big old green building?"

"Well, it's brown now but it used to be green.  You mean you live that close?"

"Brown, green, colors are not my thing.  But I sure do live close."

The conversation went on like that for several minutes before I could communicate that we could be talking over the back fence right now instead of on the phone.  She wanted to know if I was the guy who always rode his bicycle around the neighborhood.  I had a quick answer for that one.  Not a chance.  I do walk some, though, so she said she would watch for me when she was over.  I finally told her about our home group that meets on Thursdays here at the house.  She said she would let her son know.  Hmmm.  Maybe God is opening up some doors to our neighborhood.  Didn't I just pray for that to happen?  Guess Fritz and Heidi were more open to where God is at work that I was on this one.  Way to go, dogs.


Psalms 148:7-13 says, "Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children.  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens."


Father, forgive me when my dogs do a better job than I do of recognizing where you are at work.  Amen.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 27 – “Never completely goes away”


We had another of those long days yesterday.  And as usual this one involved a trip into Texas – Houston, to be specific – for a doctor's appointment.  It was once again time for my check up with the rheumatoid arthritis doctor.  It's been four months.  Last time he tried to lower the dose of the anti-inflammatory, but it didn't take long to know that wasn't going to work.   I was hoping – again – that he would take me off the steroid.  It's such a small dose.  How could it be making a difference anyway?  The pain has honestly been under control.  There have most assuredly been flare-ups, but that's when I'm supposed to take the "House" drugs (that would be the same kind of pain-killer that Greg House is addicted to in the TV show).  I usually just tell myself that if I can make it until the next anti-inflammatory dose I'll be fine.  


The doctor did his usual cursory examination while talking to us.  He talks a lot.  Very personable guy.  Likes the Astros.  He ordered blood work to see if my liver functions were holding up under the strain of the medications.  But he didn't change anything.  It finally hit me that for him, "not getting any worse" and "tolerable pain" are signs of success.  I'm not so good at this "maintenance as a goal" approach to health care.  It's frustrating to realize that some things are just not going to ever completely go away. 


On the other hand, the thing I'm most concerned about now (well, the thing that has to do with my body and pain.  I'm not counting my concerns about Mom) is the tingling and numbness in my left arm and the dull ache in that arm and my back.  All are symptoms of another bulging disc in my neck.  And the tingling and numbness in my toes and ache in my lower back are symptoms of a bulging disc in my lower spine.  I know the ultimate result of that kind of pain will be surgery.  I'm not ready to go through that again.  But if I do have the surgeries I know it will get better.  A different result than with the arthritis.  So which is worse: maintaining tolerable pain or going through the rigors of surgery and ultimately getting pain relief?  I get both choices.  What great fun. 


Deuteronomy 31:6 says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."


Father, thank you for being a "never completely goes away" option.  I choose you.  Amen.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26 – “Library Time”


I spent the morning in a library yesterday.  What a thrilling experience.  Wait.  I guess that was not a completely sarcastic remark, though there was a heavy dose of it included.  I decided to at least set eyes on every book that has been donated to the church/school library and see if they were appropriate to be there.  In the process I also began a little bit of organizing, but after awhile it became apparent that both were not going to happen in one day.  So the organizing fell by the wayside, and I dug into thumbing through all the books.


It didn't take long to find a few that could be considered questionable.  Captain Underpants adventure books.  They looked kind of funny to me, but Captain Underpants?  Maybe it was because I remember our boys wearing their Superman Underoos to save the world.  I brought them home to reminisce.  The books, not the Underoos.  There was another book I brought home to check out.  It was written by two guys from China and translated, making for an interesting result.  In this story a pair of underpants flies off a clothesline and lands on a rabbit's head.  (Sensing a pattern here?)  He thinks it's a hat.  The story line involves the opinions he gets from all his forest friends about whether or not it is a hat.  Most of them even tried it on themselves.  Looked pretty good on the elephant.  I think it was the donkey dressed like a human that first suggested it might actually be underpants.  And what happens next?  Well, I can't reveal the whole story.  You'll just have to check out the book. 


I also brought home a book called The Naked Manatee.  Looks like one of those where they got some famous guy to write the first chapter, then passed it to the next guy to write chapter two, and so on until they had a book.  I think the concept is fascinating.  Don't know yet about the book.  All I have picked up so far is the main character's name.  Booger.  Lots of potential there.


There was a whole stack of those girlie romance novels.  I couldn't convince myself to bring those home to read.  Thankfully the teacher at the school volunteered to check them out to see if they were appropriate.  Saved them from the trash pile, she did. 


There was a lot of really good stuff in there.  We have a ton of teacher resource material that can be used by homeschooling parents.  Curriculum plans for several ages levels, art ideas, Spanish lessons.  Much of it was published by Abeka, but there are some others in there as well.  Having those available for checkout fits in perfectly with one of our original plans to provide assistance to those who choose to homeschool.


Along with the huge stack of coloring books, there were VCR tapes, DVD's, CD's and Books on tape.  How about the magazines?  Ranger Rick.  National Geographic Kids World.  Highlights.  The books for kids are the most impressive, though.   Lots of those were donated by several sources around the country after Hurricane Ike.  Picture the children's section of your local public library, perhaps on a somewhat smaller scale.  Dr. Seuss and Mickey Mouse and the Berenstain Bears are all represented.  Once we get them sorted out and catalogued, we will have a library that I would be proud to open up to the community.  Guess where I'll be spending some time this summer?  Can anyone speak Dewey Decimal System?


Proverbs 9:11-12 says, "For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.  If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer."


Father, be with our school kids over the summer.  And bring us some more.  We're getting geared up for them for next year.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25 – “3 Seagulls”


Ah, fishing in Galveston.  The thing I like most about casting a line in our fair waters (actually they are muddy waters most of the time, thanks to the silt from the Mississippi River and the tides that bring it here) is the fact that you never know what you are going to catch, especially if you use live shrimp for bait.  I have caught speckled trout (my personal favorite), Spanish mackerel, flounder, red fish, and sheepshead.  I have tangled with and finally got rid of hardhead catfish, gafftop catfish, sharks, eels, ribbon fish, sun fish, and pompanos.  I once spend 45 minutes bringing in a jack crevalle.  Not to mention all the possibilities involved in a deepsea fishing adventure: king fish, red snapper, and the like.


Yesterday I was invited to join a friend from church for a day of bay fishing in his boat.  Now it was kind of windy, so we knew from the outset that there might be some bumpy rides, but we thought we could surely find just the spot alee from the wind.  Like my fishing talk?  That just means hide behind something so the wind isn't so bad.  We went from Jamaica Beach to Green's Cut to the causeway and back again.  We stopped several places in the intercoastal canal.  I managed to land (and throw back) two little gafftops.  I pulled in a small croaker and a piggy, which I used for bait.  Not a very impressive resume, is it?


My buddy hooked a big one at the causeway.  He fought with it awhile and lost it fairly close to the boat.  We both thought it broke his line, but he said it looked like the fish was a bit more dexterous than we imagined.  The knot had been untied and the hook removed.  Hmmm.  He asked how I tied knots, so I showed him they way I was taught.  He cast again and seemed to get another strike.  The line went slack much quicker this time, though.  He reeled in another missing hook.  "Your knot didn't work either," he said.  But after a second or two of closer inspection, he revised his interpretation of the events.  "No, wait," he said.  "The knot is still there.  Still tied.  It's just the hook that's gone."  So how does that happen?  All I can catch is trash fish, and he gets the only multi-talented fish in the whole ocean – the one that can untie knots with his tongue and make whole hooks disappear without disturbing the unsuspecting knot.


I did catch something else.  One source of aggravation among anglers in our area is the seagulls.  They are vicious creatures, swooping down from the sky and preying on helpless live shrimp that have just been returned to their natural habitat.  You guessed it.  I made one cast and the seagull swooped and my bait was history.  But I had a problem.  The hook remained in the gull's mouth.  And he flew away.  Made for an interesting fight, as you can imagine.  Ned asked me what I was going to do.  "Reel him in," was my reply.  So I pulled and tugged as gently as I could to get the goofy bird close to the boat.  Them I pulled him into my arms, paying special attention to his head.  That would be the business end where pecks come from.  This one was not going to be a problem, though.  The hook was in his mouth, holding it open.  We carefully dislodged it and let the bird fly away.  Ned said he had never seen that happen before.  I was kind of worried when he said that.  Just some of the old fisherman jinx lore rearing its ugly head, I guess. 


Ah, but sometimes there is reality behind the mythology.  Several casts later another live shrimp disappeared into the belly of the gull.  And another hook did its job.  This one, however, made its way into the wing and lodged there.  Again I had to carefully reel him in.  Ned helped me unwrap the line and remove the hook.  We even talked to the bird, trying to calm it down.  Finally, success once again.  At least until it happened yet a third time.  Three seagulls.  What a catch.  Welcome to Galveston.


Proverbs 9:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."


Father, thanks for my friend Ned.  Give him patience to persevere until his wife gets back in town.  I remember how difficult that can be.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24 – “High hopes”


We finished building Chris' shelf yesterday.  She decided she wanted a shelf that would fit behind the door in our den.  She wants to put all of our DVD's and VCR tapes on.  That means it is right at seven feet tall and two feet wide.  We made it using some old lumber we have been hanging on to since Hurricane Ike.  She wanted it to look "rustic."  That was pretty much guaranteed when we began.  The side pieces are a little warped and a few of the shelves are, too.  But we got it nailed together and it hasn't totally collapsed yet.  Kind of sounds like a description of me: warped, but nailed together and not totally collapsed yet.  We even got some finish strips for the front when we went to Home Depot this afternoon.  Chris has started painting it to match the old shelf she pieced together that was in Dad's garage room.  She will find a way to make it look really nice.


Well, I'm on my way to go fishing today with a guy from church.  The last time I went fishing was the last time he and I went out a few weeks ago.  Didn't catch much back then, so we have high hopes. 


1 Peter 3:15-17 says, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."


Father, keep us safe out on the water today.  And watch over Chris and Mom while I'm gone.  Amen.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23 – “Anything for my boys”


Chris wins the award for most vivid dream of the week.  Last night she dreamed that she and I went into some guy's hospital room …


Wait.  The plot obviously began long before this incident.  She was hazy on the details of what that plot was.  I don't know if she just couldn't remember it all or if she herself didn't enter the dream until she accompanied me to the hospital.  Now this guy was important to the story line for one reason only.  He could identify our son Nathan.  And what did Nathan do that made his identification necessary in the first place?  She didn't know that.  What have you been up to, my son?


Back to the story.  We walked into the hospital room of the potential witness.  Now when she told this part there was no drama.  No drumroll.  In fact no warning of any kind.  In fact this is this first thing she said to me this morning , after "I love you," of course.  She just blurted out, "You stabbed the man in the chest." 


What?  I did what?  So you understand my consternation.  She hastened to say that it was a dream, but I wanted details.  What man?  Where?  When?  And you have all the detail she could muster.  She did finally add, "I didn't know you even had a knife."  I quickly answered, "There's a whole drawer full in the kitchen."  Not exactly the best response for my defense, was it?  The last bit of detail reflected a bit of her inherent claustrophobia.  As we attempted to escape the hospital we got stuck in the elevator.  That's where we were when she woke up in a panic.  Not so much because I stabbed a guy, but because we were stuck in an elevator. 


Chris said she was going to text Nathan this morning and tell him that she knew for a fact that his Dad would do anything for him.  Maybe you shouldn't reveal too many details on that, Chris.  Not until you can dream me up a lawyer.


Proverbs 6:20-22 says, "My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching.  Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck.  When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you."


Father, watch over my sons and their wives and my grandsons and my granddaughter and my Mom and my wife.  And could you give Chris some pleasant dreams next time?  Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22 – “A fair and a wedding”


There were lots of people at the craft fair yesterday.  Something like 20 or so booths, but apparently the advertising was quite successful.  The place was packed for much of the day with window shoppers and some purchasers.  While I was there in the morning Cailyn demanded most of my attention.  I did get to spend some time in church library going through books as preliminary to organizing them.  We want to cull out those that aren't appropriate for small children and make a separate section for them.  That way adults and teenagers can check books out on Sundays, and the school kids can use it during the week.  I haven't heard yet how much money was raised, but just having all those folks come through the building was worth it.


I had to leave to officiate a wedding at 1:00.  It was a pretty simple affair.  No extra music other than the entry and exit songs.  The only attendant was the groom's Dad, who acted as his best man.  I think the only reason he was there was to hold onto the rings.  There was no rehearsal, so we ran through what would happen right before we began.  When we got up in front of the crowd I happened to notice a lapel mike on a table nearby.  I glanced around, looking for the hotel guy who was playing the recorded music.  He was shaking his head and gesturing wildly for me to put it on.  That would have been helpful to know before we started.  The bride and her Dad arrived and I had no way to cue the sound table to fade out the music, so I decided to loudly announce the opening prayer.  I raised my voice a few levels and began, "Let us pray."  I didn't realize, however, that the music guy had already turned the mike on.  And the hotel's mike is so powerful that a person standing on the balcony of the highest room can hear it clearly.  So I startled a few passing pelicans and drew feedback from a flock of seagulls. 


The bride and groom were both engineers.  Everything had been planned exactly.  After I met with them a few months ago, I received regular email updates.  And when they got to the top of the stairs for us to begin, they both stood at attention, with hands to their sides.  It took me a line or two to notice, but when I did I stopped and whispered to them that it would be OK for them to hold hands.  Whispered.  Over the super-powered microphone.  Brought more than a few chuckles.   The groom got choked up during his vows, so the bride joined him.  By the time he finished they were both in tears.  I paused a moment so they could calm down.  She was much stronger for hers, but somewhere around "for richer or poorer" she almost lost it, too.  It all turned out good, though.  They are hitched.


Proverbs 6:16-19 says, "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers."


Father, I know that passage has nothing to do with weddings and fairs, but keep my family – my church one and my home one - away from those things.  Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 21 – “Tears of a friend”


My good friend David came over for a visit yesterday.  He grew up in Galveston, but now he lives in Arkansas.  Ran away to California for awhile before that.  His wife was having a spa day somewhere.  Dave said that for her a spa day is the absolute ultimate in relaxation.  Maybe I'll try that sometime.  Not so sure about getting hair waxed, though.  I saw it on that great race TV show one time.  It just can't feel good.  Besides, I can't understand how in the world she could pick a day of massages and hot tubs over a once in a lifetime chance to hang out with her husband's old college roommate.  Right.


I knew David back in high school, but he was older than me.  Still is.  I remember the January day of my senior year when I showed up to go with the Baptists on a youth retreat.  I was Episcopalian at the time, but my girlfriend Debbie was a Baptist and she was going.  Mom drove me over to the church to drop me off.  I handed off my suitcase and saw David.  He was a Baptist, too.  I eased over to him and ever-so nonchalantly (so I thought) asked, "So where is Debbie?"  David replied, "Oh, she called.  She's not coming."


Now that's not what I wanted to hear.  Having never been to a church youth retreat, I had pictured a wonderful, romantic weekend.  Now that was shattered, so I asked Dave to get my suitcase back.  They had already loaded it up on the top of the old yellow bus.  I scanned the parking lot, and finally located Mom.  She was right at the exit, about to leave.  Again trying to appear much cooler than I really was (Hey, this was 1971.  It was important to be cool), I eased up to the driver's side window and smugly remarked, "Huh.  I guess I'll be coming back home with you.  I just found out Debbie's not going.  David's getting my suitcase right now."  Little did I know that David was not getting my suitcase at all.  Why should he?  He wasn't my slave or anything.  He was watching the interchange with Mom, though. 


And that's when it happened.  Mom did something I would never have expected.  Took me completely off guard.  Left me speechless, stunned.  Mom smiled.  And waved.  And drove off.  She never said a word.  Slowly I turned, frustrated and confused and angry.  Why in the world would she do that?  What was she thinking?  How could she?  And then I turned my gaze to locate David.  I was determined to vent my frustrations to someone, and he was the closest one around I knew.  Finally I found him.  And did this dear friend have tears of sympathy in his eyes?  Did he rush to my side to comfort me in this time of terrible confusion?  Not exactly.  David did, indeed, have tears in his eyes.  But they were from laughing so hard that he could barely stand up.  To his credit, he did finally collect himself long enough to assure me that at least we would have a chance to play some softball at the camp.  Oh, by the way.  Since I my wonderful romantic getaway was ruined, I didn't exactly have much else to do – no hand to hold, no walks in the moonlight.  So I actually listened on occasion to the guest speaker.  And I finally got it.  That's the weekend that I understood for the first time that it was more important for me to have a personal relationship with Jesus than with Debbie.  Or anyone else, for that matter.  I needed some help with the specifics, but there was no doubt my heart was smitten.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Well, my history.  Thanks Dave.


Proverbs 5:21 says, "For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths."


Father, thank you for my friend David.  It's hard to think of beginning my walk with you without thinking of him as well.  Amen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20 – “Doomsday tomorrow?”

I finished the first rough draft of a quick book about my Dad's battle with Alzheimer's disease.  It has a long way to go before it's ready for general consumption.  Chris read through it the other day and her comment was, "It wasn't what I expected."  I'm not even sure what I expected when I started writing.  I just felt like writing down the story might help me deal with all the emotions and decisions and frustrations we went through.  And I guess it did.  That's probably why it will be hard to do any kind of polishing of the story or character development or word-smithing.  My personal purpose has been achieved.  Now I have to rustle up some personal pride in the product.  I don't know if that would happen any time soon.  Maybe I should approach it from a different perspective.  Maybe it would help someone else going through the Alzheimer's experience with a loved one to know what to expect.  I might could get up for that.  Still a lot of work.


Hey, all you C.S. Lewis fans.  We now have a wardrobe in our house.  Tours of the secret world inside are now open.  Actually, we haven't filled it with fur coats and pine trees and Narnian creatures and experiences with Aslan yet, but you never know what could happen.  Or when. 


Speaking of not knowing what could happen or when, I just read the newspaper.  Front page of the Galveston Daily News.  The world is going to start to come to an end tomorrow at 6:00p.m.  Total destruction won't be completed until sometime on October.  Guess it takes awhile.  Some guy in California has made the latest doomsday prediction.  The last one he made, back in 1994, was apparently off by a few years, but he seems pretty sure this time.  One good thing about preparing for something like Doomsday … it won't do any good to evacuate.  You don't even need a hurricane list of which valuables and photo albums and important papers to carry with you.  All you have to do is make sure you're right with God, that you have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Then you don't have to worry or be afraid no matter what happens.  Or how it happens.  Doesn't matter. 


Matthew 24:36 says, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."


Father, whenever you are ready, come on.  I don't need to know when.  I just want to be there.  Amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 19 – “Treasure in many forms”


We found out that Mom officially has another urinary tract infection.  That's the elusive contamination that has weird effects on older adults.  This time, other than that jerkiness with her arms and legs the other day, she has just been sleeping a lot.  And one other thing came out of the blue.  She may have injured some ribs again.  She has some tenderness in the same area of the ribs she broke when she fell out of bed last year.  As far as we know she hasn't fallen again, unless she did it when we weren't around and forgot to tell us.  She's on antibiotics now, so hopefully she will climb back yet again.


Yesterday we cleaned out the rest of our stored stuff from our friend's garage.  Not too bad – just two years later.  We found bags of plastic cups and boxes of coffee cups.  Some of them were ours or Nathan and April's, and some of them were items that were donated after the storm.  Chris has started the process of cleaning everything up and putting some of it in the church garage sale this Saturday.  We ran across the evil Teddy Ruxpin doll that came into our hands some years ago.  Our boys never got into playing with it, so it was relegated to a spot in the attic.  That thing always gave me the creeps for some reason. 


This last load yesterday was primarily seven or eight bed frames.  That would be headboards and footboards and the iron slat supports in between.  There was an iron twin bed set that had been stored in Mom and Dad's garage attic for years.  There was a Jenny Lind double bed frame.  Wait, maybe there were two of those.  One double bed set belonged to Chris' grandmother.  There was a daybed that Mom had in her sewing room.  That one is going to be Cailyn's bed when they get it cleaned up.  She's also getting a dresser that was in there.  We also picked up some boards that we have used over the years for shelving.  Chris already has a project planned for them.  She wants to build a custom shelf for DVD's.  One of the bags was full of stuffed animals that Mom and Dad had.  One of them was Dad's favorite.  It was a mean looking bulldog with a motion sensor.  He barked whenever someone walked near him.  I'll have to get some batteries and see if he still works.  I guess it's true that treasure comes in many forms.


2 Corinthians 4:7-9 says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."


Father, thank you for every treasure, even the ones that are dirty and rusted and broken … kind of like me.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18 – “Hurricane Preparedness”


The beginning of hurricane season is not far away.  Always a wonderful time of year to live on a small island off the coast of Texas.  Time to pull out the traveling file box for important papers.  I guess we also need to get a new stack of plastic tubs as well.  The ones we used to pack up our photo albums have all been appropriated for use in storing salvaged junk up in the attic.  Wait.  Salvaged treasures.  Chris will probably read this. 


It's not nearly as difficult to develop a "hurricane list" since Hurricane Ike.  Mainly because we learned that the only thing that really needs to be on it is important papers and photo albums (and maybe the baseball card collection).  We already know where we would evacuate to.  The location has changed, but it's still Josh's house.  Just San Antonio instead of Mansfield. 


I just read in the paper that the annual hurricane preparedness workshop for Galveston is being held tonight at the convention center.  Hurricane preparedness.  That reminds me of one of those biblical words that has one pronunciation in the Bible and another in normal life usage.  Like "blessed."  They even have a big demonstration beforehand by the Galveston Marine Response Group.  That's code for the fire department, the police marine division, the Galveston Island Beach Patrol, and Jamaica Beach Fire Rescue.  I guess the GMRG is easier to remember than GFDGPDGIBPJBFR.  They're going to simulate a mass casualty scenario.  I'll have to ask Nathan if he's in it this year.  Wonder how you get to volunteer to be a casualty?


I'll have to inform my friend David about the activities.  He grew up in Galveston, but he lives in Arkansas now.  He and his wife and dogs are in town for a vacation this week.  I'm sure watching a mass casualty scenario will be just the ticket for a romantic evening at the beach.  No need to thank me, Michelle.


Proverbs 3:25-26 says, "Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared."


Father, thank you once again for the peace and assuredness that makes it possible to be calm in the face of potential disasters.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 17 – “Let them minister”


We had a scare yesterday.  I was working in the backyard.  Chris has just washed and dried Mom's hair and was curling it when Mom's head slumped forward.  Chris talked to her, but she didn't respond right away.  Then her arms and legs started jerking around.  It just lasted a few seconds.  Then her head slumped again.  Chris talked to her again, and she looked up at her and smiled and said, "I sure am tired.  I think I'll go take a nap."  Chris told her to stay put for a second and came outside to get me.  I helped Mom back to her bed, and Chris called the doctor's office.  That happened around noon.  The doctor didn't call back until after 4:00, and then only because Chris called them again.  She spoke with the nurse practitioner and Mom has an appointment for 3:00 today.  Oh, and when she finally woke up and started moving around again, she seemed to be feeling much better, except for some times of confusion.


After I helped Mom to bed I returned to the yard and started praying for her.  And somewhere between ripping up some evil weeds and trimming up a Brazilian pepper tree, I got a sudden sense of an answer.  But I don't really understand it yet.  The undeniable thought that continued returning to my mind was this: "Let them minister."  I mentioned it to Chris and she asked the very thing I had been thinking since I first thought it: "So who's 'they'?"  Good question.  But whoever you are out there, get started ministering and I am prepared to let you.


I woke up with another song in my head this morning.  Just thought I'd share it with you so I won't be the only one.  Ready?  "Pop goes the weasel."  Now who wakes up singing that song who's not four or five years old?  That would be me.  Good morning all.


Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."


Father, touch my Mom today.  Keep her safely in your hands.  Amen.