Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31 – “Learn from the master”

Great worship at church yesterday.  We had 58 people in attendance.  There were lots of visitors.  Some from Idaho, Oklahoma, Colorado and even as far away as Houston.  It was one of those days when the songs matched up perfectly with the teaching.  And when we worked on memorizing Romans 8:31 with a Visual Verse, our incredible Praise Team switched some things around and added a song based on that scripture.  We had a barrage of compliments about the service, so thanks to Jimmy and Jim and Cory for your leadership. 

Josh showed me how to get pictures and videos off my camera onto the computer.  I had forgotten that the charger was also a connection cable, and I could treat it like a thumb drive.  Kel showed me how to set up to upload pictures to the Dropbox application.  It started immediately, and over the course of a day and a half it loaded 300 or so photos to “the Cloud.”  It never did finish any of the videos, though.  That meant the original problem that led to all this was not resolved.  I was trying to figure out a way to get the portion of Kelly Boyer’s sermon that I was able to record posted on FaceBook (it was too long) or YouTube (I have no idea what’s wrong there.  Keeps telling me I’m entering the wrong email or password).  It is on my computer now, so maybe I’ll just make her a cd of it and see if she wants to figure it out. 

I have to add a quick grandchild anecdote.  Before Christmas Cailyn was working together with Chris to make a chicken pot pie for our neighbor who broke her kneecap.  As they mixed ingredients, Cailyn looked up at Chris and said, “Are you young, Nani?”

Ever the quick-thinking one, Chris replied, “What do you think?”

Not to be outdone in the quick-thinking department, Cailyn had an immediate answer.  It was tactful, sweet, loving, and above all, evasive.  She countered, “Well, you’re a lot of fun.” 

Learn from the three-year-old master.

Psalms 50:23 says, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

Father, Thank you for all the folks you drew into worship yesterday.  Give them a safe New Year’s Eve.  Amen.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30 – “Sleepover”

We did have a cousins’ sleepover while Josh and his family were here.  It was kind of overshadowed by the gift giving and receiving.  I suppose it kicked in when all the parents disappeared around 6:30 or 7.  Sleeping bags were already arranged carefully on the floor near the Christmas tree.  There was still a lot of serious playing going on, but the highlight of the even seemed to calm things down some.  Movie time with popcorn and goldfish (the snack food, not the small, orange-y creatures that swim).  The Polar Express was Nani’s choice this time.  Very Christmas-y.  Also considerably Tim Hanks-y.  That was followed by an encore screening of Despicable Me.  And with the second movie came the announcement from Nani, “It’s time for everyone to stay in his sleeping bag.”  That effort began around 8:30 or so.  The older guys did fine.  Josiah and Cailyn, not so much.  They were both so tired that they were trying anything and everything to stay awake.  It wouldn’t do for them to miss out on anything the older ones did by falling asleep, right? 

Kel and Christina made a return stop and Josiah left with them for the evening.  I think Caleb made his way back to the bedroom where his Mom and Dad were sleeping.  Zakary ended up on the big couch (way more comfortable than the floor).  Cailyn turned up in our bed with Chris and I grabbed what sleep I could crammed into the love seat with my feet hanging out one side.  That was by my choice, though.  I was having some allergy-related breathing issues.  Needless to say, we all made it through the night. 

Zak and Micah and Jachin were fine the next morning, up early and climbing into my office chair with me, “Helping DadDad with his work” (And just so I don’t get into trouble with Chris for working on a day I was supposed to be resting, they were giving me some assistance on the journal article for the day).  Cailyn heard the ruckus and emerged from the bedroom, eager to enter the fray.  She wasn’t quite ready for action, though, so she crashed on the little couch (the one I ended up sleeping on with my feet hanging over).  When Caleb entered the room, he surveyed the situation, taking it all in.  Finally his eyes lit on Cailyn, peacefully lounging in the midst of the tangled sleeping bags and toys strewn about.  He gently stroked the edge of the furniture and. In his best grown-up voice ever, he declared, “Aw, look.  Cailyn slept on the couch all night long.  That’s adorable.”

Deuteronomy 32:3-4 says, “I will proclaim the name of the Lord.  Oh, praise the greatness of our God!  He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”

Father, help me live so you can come upon me and say, “that’s adorable.”  Amen.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 29 – “Creative gifts”

Now back to what I was thinking and writing about before I was so delightfully interrupted yesterday … Our children and their spouses decided last year to draw names among them instead of trying to buy gifts for everyone.  At Thanksgiving this year they came up with the idea to put an interesting restriction on the gifts.  They had to be home made.  That proved to be quite interesting.  I understand they made a few trips to some place called Pinterest to get ideas.  Hope they didn’t have to drive too far to get there.  Wherever it is, they came up with some good ideas.  In fact two of them came up with the same idea.  Nathan made a secret book safe for Josh.  Now Nathan had some experience with that sort of thing.  He actually made one for himself back when he was in high school so he could hide his own “treasures” from Mom and Dad.  He found a Spanish dictionary at some antique store and cut out a hole in the middle.  Josh was on the same wavelength.  He got an old discard book from their church library and did the same thing for Kel.  April took a bottle of some kind, painted and decorated it, and added some of that paint that dries into a chalkboard.  Now Christina has a vase (I guess) that she can make a shopping list on.  And she had a similar idea for April.  She took one of those combination frames they sell with places for seven or eight pictures.  She somehow fit a tiny whiteboard, one for each day of the week, into each frame.  Kel drew Christi’s name, so he made a trip to Hobby Lobby.  He got a frame and tied a letter “V” so that it hung down from the top.  Finally, Christi had Nathan’s name.  She dried out an old used ear of corn and shaped it into a corn cob pipe.

All in all I would say the home made restriction proved completely successful.  Christi said her boys were so inspired that they made something for each other.  Hey, before you know it we’ll be opening up the Vaughan Family Creative Gifts Factory. 

Psalms 50:14-15 says, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

Father, thank you for the spark of your creativity you have placed within us.  It’s fun.  Amen.

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 28 – “Our Christmas”

 Well, we finally caught up with the rest of the world.  Yesterday was Family Christmas Day around the Vaughan house.  It was the first day that all of our children could be together, so somehow it worked out that Santa made a special trip here the night before.  Amazing how he can do things like that. 

While we were waiting for the Kel and Nathan families to arrive, we were blessed with the speculations and observations of Caleb and Zakary.  Caleb in particular was eager to point out that his stocking that had been hanging on the fireplace when he arrived was now on the floor, and it had a wrapped present in it.  And it was important for us to know that at his house, all the gifts that were designated for him were wrapped in the same kind of wrapping paper.  That way, once he established that one present was his, he didn’t have to search nametags for any other possibilities.  Hmm.  Smart Santa.  And speaking of smart ideas for wrapping, we did hear a great idea for next year.  Not from Caleb, or even Zakary.  Chris heard it or saw it online or something.  Instead of writing the kids’ name on the tag, stick a picture of him on the package.  We may try that one if we remember.

All the cousins did arrive, as did the usual exciting array of gifts.  Personally, the gifts I received were pretty special, from the Astros hat (the orange one with the star) to the Spiderman dvd (never did see the new one) to the Brick Testament Old Testament (I use that website all the time) to the old school cell phone amplifier (a very strange looking hunk of rubbery stuff into which a cell phone mounts.  The rubber is shaped like one of those old megaphone-looking things you used to stick in your ear for a hearing aid.  Works like a charm).  I remember a few shirts and some candy corn as well, but there was a lot of debris by that time.  Chris got some of those pavers with each grandchild’s handprint in them.  Brought tears to her eyes, of course. 

Well, my office just got invaded by the boys, so I guess that’s enough info for today.  I’ll resume tomorrow when there hasn’t been a full-blown cousins’ sleepover. 

Psalms 50:2-3 says, “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.  Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.”

Father, you also shine in the fire of life emitting from all these kids.  Thanks for that.  Amen.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 27 – “Christmas Cousin Conclave”

The temperature was thirty-two point five degrees when I woke up yesterday.  That equals considerably cold for the tropical island paradise.  I went outside and did a quick survey of the Christmas lights in the front yard.  Sure enough, the strong winds had done a number on them.  Too cold to worry about rehanging them right then, though.  I decided to wait until it warmed up to thirty-five or so.  Yeah.  Much warmer.  I did take time to cover the water faucets with those tricky caps they make out of foam and a big rubber band.  Sure saves time.  Sadly, the faucet in the back yard just sticks up out of the ground, so I still had to do the old fashioned newspaper and duct tape approach.  Oh, and it was garbage day as well, so I had to get the can out to the street.  Whew.  That’s about as much cold as this old BOI Galvestonian can stand in one day.  How did I ever last those years in Colorado?

Josh and family got here from San Antonio.  They had just enough time to recuperate from the trip and settle in before Kel and his family got here.  And so began the Christmas Cousin Conclave of 2012.  At least the male end of it.  Cailyn won’t get here until this morning when we open gifts.  That’s right.  It took Santa a few extra days to swim across the bay and get to our house on the island.  But he did make it, and the natives are already restless.

Last night I dared to enter the fray a time or two to get in some goofy DadDad time.  One time after he made a trip to the bathroom Josiah returned with just his undershirt on.  That’s all.  Just his undershirt.  Took a while, but he was finally convinced to at least put his underpants on.  How, you may ask, was he convinced?  It had something to do with completing his ensemble.  See, his t shirt and the missing underpants were part of a uniform … Batman underoos.  Quite impressive.  So impressive in fact that I was inspired.  I had to pull out my Superman cape.  And t shirt.  And my new Superman underwear.  I put them all on to complete an ensemble of my own, over my clothes of course.  And the ensuing struggle between good and evil - super hero vs super hero vs super villains – lasted until the ultimate super hero, Nani, stepped in to save the aging wearer of blue, red, and gold from a fate worse than kryptonite.  Sadly, she moved just a tad too late.  Oh, the forces of evil will never know the extent of the damage, for the purveyor of truth, justice and the American way will never reveal his injuries.  But suffice it to say, he was … pleased at the intervention.  It’s great to have my very own Lois Lane/Nani/Chris to watch over me.  Now perhaps I will have enough energy to survive the Cousins’ Sleepover scheduled for tonight.

Psalms 50:1 says, “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.”

Father, good morning.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26 – “He may have found a home”

We had about as quiet a Christmas Day as I can remember yesterday.  Chris and I exchanged gifts with just the two of us.  Mom slept in until around ten or so.  Then we just lolled around the house waiting for the cold front to get here.  I read the Hobbit.  Chris read her new book, Heat Wave by Richard Castle.  Yep.  The same Richard Castle from the TV show.  Same book based on New York City police detective Kate Beckett.  Chris said she really likes Kate Beckett a lot better than Nikki Heat, though.  I guess Castle muddied her up some so the book would appeal to a greater subsection of the masses.  Chris even remembered the case he was writing about from one of the TV episodes.  I didn’t get to try out my gifts yet.  It was too cold to mow the grass and use my new leaf blower with handy vacuum attachment.  It was too hot at the time to wear my new long sleeved t-shirt.  But I do have that on now.  The cold front arrived with a vengeance.  High winds, too.  Blew down our Christmas lights in the front, so I’ll have to go out there today and hook them back up.  Weatherbug on my computer is reading 33 degrees.  That’s some serious cold in Galveston.  No snow, though.  We had our once-every-50-years snow fall.  On a Christmas Eve just a few years ago, as I recall. 

The array of gifts I managed to scrape together for my bride may seem small, but they came from my heart.  I already mentioned the Nikki Heat book.  She got a long sleeved tshirt, but it doesn’t fit.  There’s a trip to Target for a return.  The Precious Moments figurine she liked.  I wrapped up some swing hardware bolts for her.  She has been wanting to put up a swing in the back yard for the grandkids, but we haven’t figured out yet the best approach.  Now we can take it to the next level.  I didn’t get the actual swing or chain yet.  We are pondering whether the old rocking horse can be salvaged somehow.  And there was a carving, of course.  This year that creature that came forth from the block of wood did so in honor of the Bearded Lady Soap Factory.  I carved … Jim Stone.  Well, not exactly.  I did try my hand at a goat, though.  And for those of you who have seen my vision of a goat in one of the Visual Verses, I think I made you all proud.  How could I not?  Couldn’t get any worse, right?  Chris saw fit to add it to the manger scene I carved, so if he can see fit not to butt Mary or Joseph or the donkey or the cow or even the little lamb, then he may have found a home.

And now the wait begins.  Josh and his crew are due in this afternoon.  I’m sure Kel and his guys will be down soon after.  And how can Cailyn resist the chance to hang out with the guys?  The quiet is doomed.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.   He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Father, thank you for the quiet.  Now bring on the family.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25 – “Happy Christmas (of course)”

I trekked out to Seaside by myself last night for the Christmas Eve service.  We just couldn’t get Mom going.  I guess she was still recuperating from the family party Saturday night.  It was kind of eerie.  Not much traffic on the roads going, and almost completely deserted coming home.  Plus the fog started rolling in.  Very strange and very quiet. 

The service went pretty well, considering our lead singer was suffering from a sore throat, and we had someone working the computer for the first time.  Lots of visitors, though, and they all seemed to get in the spirit of pitching in.  We did a visual verse for the early comers, and they really liked that.  One group of out-of-towners was taking pictures of it with their cell phones.  They fancied themselves “reasonable Bible scholars” (their own words), so they took it as a real challenge to figure it out.  They did OK.  They got a lot of the words but were never able to put them all together into an actual verse.  We stumbled our way through the service, and everyone raised the level of singing nest they could to help out Jimmy.  It also helped that he brought his own pair of backup singers, Lora and Melissa, and Cory did his usual solid job on bass. 

After the service I was talking to one of the visitors, a couple who told me they would be here in town until about May, when the door suddenly burst open and a young teenage guy who had been visiting in the service with his Mom raced up and gave me a huge hug, saying “Merry Christmas, Pastor Kelley.”  Just as quickly he turned and ran out.  Certainly startled us all, but those are the moments that make being a pastor special. 

As usually happens on Christmas Eve, the building cleared out quickly when we were finished.  It was kind of strange cleaning up by myself, and again, quiet.  Sure missed Chris being there.  The ride home through the fog was uneventful, and I listened to Christmas music on the radio.  They even played the same clip that we had used in the service – Linus quoting the Christmas story from the Book of Luke to Charlie Brown.  He ends with my favorite line, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”  Indeed.

Matthew 1:18-25 says, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.  Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
            But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
            All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ -which means, ‘God with us.’
            When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Father, thank you for hugs and fog and family and Jesus – for Christmas.  Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24 – “What really matters”

We had an unexpected visitor at church yesterday.  It was a lady who we helped out last year about this time.  He’s still struggling but doing much better.  She decided that driving to Baytown to go to the only church had ever known was just too far.  A nice “end result” kind of story about doing ministry.

Jimmy, our worship team lead singer, had a pretty bad sore throat.  As a result he could only play guitar and sing ever so softly.  His dad stepped up to take up the slack, but he was fighting a tickle in his throat as well.  That’s when one of the young ladies in congregation, Dana, said she would join in to help.  Very pretty voice.  Maybe she’ll stick with it when she can. 

One fellow stopped in for a few minutes just before worship started.  He grabbed a cup of coffee and I was able to talk to him for a bit.  Seems he had been to Seaside years ago and as a result of the encounter he got involved with our AA group and eventually came to Jesus.  Said he still remembered the teaching from that day.  “You took us into the Old Testament.  There were two brothers.  Totally different.  One did what he was supposed to.  The other not so much.  See, I have a brother.  I was the ‘not so much’ one.  But God changed me.”  He encouraged the church to hang in there no matter what difficulties we might run into, “with money or whatever,” because “you never know who all you are helping.”  Wow.  Now that was the most encouraging ten minutes I have had in a long time.  He couldn’t stay for the service, but his spirit of reassurance will stay with me for a long time.

Now to prepare for the Christmas Eve service tonight.  Gotta remember to pick up the donuts that we give away.  But that’s another ministry story …

Psalms 49:16-19 says, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.  Though while he lived he counted himself blessed — and men praise you when you prosper — he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light [of life].”

Father, thank you for the reminders yesterday of what really matters.  Amen.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23 – “Emu Man”

We attended the revival of a family tradition last night.  It’s been a while, but my side of the family decided to get together at my brother’s house on Tiki Island.  We used to do it every year back when I was growing up.  Between my Mom and my aunts, someone hosted every year.  But as the cousins began to grow and have children of their own, the family party became less and less of a priority.  I guess now that the cousins’ kids are getting grown, us oldies are up to reminiscing again, so the party is back.  We used to draw names at the party to determine that one person we had to get a gift for the next year.  At some point we switched to a simple Christmas ornament exchange.  I don’t think it was the only precipitating factor for the change (I’m pretty sure there was some economic consideration as well), but one year one of the cousins got a doll for the name he drew, another cousin.  After all, she was a girl.  What girl wouldn’t want a doll?  You guessed it.  She was not at all happy with her gift.  But hey, that particular cousin is now an FBI analyst.  As a kid she probably would have preferred a BB gun (as in “you could shoot your eye out with that thing”), or maybe a slick pair of sunglasses to help conceal her identity. 

The party went well.  We picked up my uncle (the one who has been in the hospital several times lately) and gave him a ride.  His son drove in from Florida and didn’t arrive until around 8 p.m.   Nathan met us on Tiki Island and helped us get Mom up the stairs.  She did really well with about half the climb, but she was surrounded by assistance and managed to complete the journey.  My one remaining aunt was there as well, so that generation proudly presided over the festivities, each representing one wing of our family tree.  Things weren’t nearly as rowdy as they have been in the past.  Cailyn was the only child there.  The next youngest was a girl who I think just graduated from high school.  Not that Cailyn minded all that attention.  She even ended with an extra ornament. 

Speaking of gifts, we were gifted by my brothers and their wives (is that the right usage there?  They each have only one wife as far as I know).  It was some really nice stuff, too.  My favorites among everything?  How can I not mention the Superman underwear?  Even tried them on for some photos.  And I’m pretty proud of the emu feather, too.  Maybe I can put on the underwear, put the feather behind my ear, and become a whole new superhero … Emu Man.  Now that has some possibilities.

Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Father, thank you for the delight I saw in the face of my uncle as he basked in the attention of our family last night.  Amen.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22 – “The end of the end”

Well, yesterday was an interesting one, wasn’t it?  For some I guess it was quite a disappointment that the world didn’t come to an end.  For others perhaps it was a relief.  Still others no doubt will say that it did in fact end, and we are now just living in the Matrix (OK, I admit I saw that one on Facebook).  Oh, and don’t forget the whole, “it ended spiritually” crowd.  I think I found the answer, though.  Strangely, it appeared in a movie we had taped in the midst of the vast array of Christmas schmaltz from the Lifetime Channel.  Somehow a Sci-fi Channel exclusive managed to sneak its way into our collection, and it was, coincidentally, the next one in line.

The name of the movie was The Twelve Disasters of Christmas.  Catchy name, don’t you think?  It was all about how the Mayans predicted the end of the world would occur and how it almost happened on December 21, 2012.  Seriously.  A movie on it.  The song The Twelve Days of Christmas was actually a secret code for twelve disasters that would occur that would initiate the end of the world.  Kind of like a countdown, giving the main characters a chance to stop the whole evil process.  And of course the character who represented all that is evil in mankind was played by the only person in town who could quote scripture.  Gotta make the Christian the bad guy.  So the whole Mayan end of the world thing would have happened, but it was narrowly averted by the actions of a random teenager in some remote part of Colorado or wherever they were.  (Lots of mountains.  Twelve of them just happened to be volcanoes that no one knew about, but that’s but a minor art of the larger tale).  The rest of us were oblivious because of the force field that had formed over that area.  (Hey, maybe Braniac was a Mayan.  How many of my readers will understand that remark?).  And we watched it on 12-21-2012.  Awesome. 

Now we also had three of our grandsons over for a visit yesterday.  This was before we were enlightened by the movie.  Jachin had his own take on the end of the world.  He was convinced it would involve either an ice age of some kind … or zombies.  It rapidly became evident that his vote went to zombies.  And one comment he made kind of attached itself to my psyche.  “It will happen first at your house, DadDad, because there are lots of graves in Galveston.”  Uh-huh.  I think I’ll go with Josiah’s approach.  Sounds way more reasonable than anything else I have heard.  So, Josiah, what do you think about the end of the world and the Mayans?  “Coconuts in a coconut tree.”  Indeed.

Psalms 48:14 says, “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”

Father, thank you for being in charge of endings.  Amen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21 – “On the Christmas letter”

Well, we are finally into the twenties.  No, I don’t mean degrees.  This is Galveston, you know.  Tropical Island off the coast of Texas.  I mean twenties as in dates.  The few days before Christmas.  The “most wonderful time of the year,” and all that.  And on top of all that, the world didn’t come to an end at midnight.  Always a plus.  But a special thanks to the Mayan guy who carved that calendar and provided us with all the excitement over the last few weeks.  We spent much of the day yesterday printing and folding and addressing and stamping.  Yep.  That means the infamous Vaughan Christmas letters are ready to read.  They will be put in the mail today.  Mail.  That’s one of those antique ways of communicating with people where a nice guy dressed in red walks around the neighborhood with a big bag on his back delivering toys to all the good little girls and boys.  Wait.  I got a little ahead of myself.  I mentioned it was getting close to Christmas, right?  The guy who brings mail is the one who dresses in blue and walks around the neighborhood and carries the big pack on his back and delivers, well, sometimes toys.  See how I could get confused? 

I like to get that old kind of mail.  Snail mail.  Kind of has a ring to it, doesn’t it?  You wait anxiously, checking outside every so often for a glimpse of that blue suit guy.  And then when he walks up onto your porch, you pretend like you are busy so he doesn’t see how excited you are.  And then as he walks away to the next house on the block, you wait until just the right moment, when you are pretty sure he won’t hear the commotion behind him and actually turn around and catch you red-handed checking your own mailbox like you are some kind of thief.  That’s when you can leap through the front door and pop open the lid and gaze at the wonders that have been hand delivered to your door.  It could be anything.  Oh, sure there are usually plenty bills.  Plenty of bills.  And junk, too.  Lots of that stuff.  You know.  Ads for the local dentist or for pizza.  A special notice that you have been preapproved for a brand new credit card.  Maybe one of those “you may have already won…” notifications.  But then there may also be, especially at this time of year, that wonderful creation of marketing genius, the Christmas card.  Who could have predicted how successful that idea would become?  A piece of paper, folded in half.  On one side a random picture of a winter scene or Santa Claus or a tree.  A cheesy bit of verse or quaint saying in the middle.  And the best part of all, you don’t have to come up with anything substantial on your own.  It’s not like you are writing a letter or anything.   All you have to do is sign it, basically placing your “ditto” on whatever wish or wisdom the creative mastermind has provided for you.  Put it in the envelope graciously provided for you, stick a stamp on the front, which, by the way, you no longer have to lick, and … get this, it’s the best part … attach it with a clothes pin to your mailbox for that wandering bag-toter to take with him as he continues on his appointed rounds. 

So, I love snail mail.  I especially love Christmas cards.  Once a year we get photos and a quick summary of family history and an updated address so we will know where to send the card next year.  That’s a hint.  If you want a copy of our Vaughan Family newsletter, send me a Christmas card.  That’s part of the unspoken protocol, isn’t it?  If you get a card from someone, you have to send them one back.  Hmm.  I guess I need to put one aside for the CEO of Palais Royal.  He sent me a very nice card.  Even included a ten dollar coupon.  Who else …

Psalms 48:10 says, “Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness.”

Father, thank you for all those people we hear from at Christmas.  Make them really happy in the coming year.  Amen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20 – “They are watching”

I went to bed with three extra females in the room last night, watching.  Just watching.  No, my daughters-in-law weren’t all over to nurse the old man back to health.  It wasn’t even Cailyn and her imaginary friends.  It was much, much worse.  I had to try to get to sleep with three new dolls staring at me.  Frightening.  Terribly, terribly frightening.

The dolls were just a tiny portion of the truckload of sentiment we managed to bring back from our trip to Bay City yesterday.  Chris’ half-brother called to let her know he had sold his Dad’s house and she was welcome to come pick up some of her Mom’s genealogy stuff and a few pictures.  He knew the genealogy was in a file cabinet and stacked on a shelf, so he suggested she bring a few boxes as well.  I’m so glad we took the pickup truck.  Once we got there the two of them started picking up objects and checking behind pictures on the wall.  Most things had been marked with the person who was intended to receive that item.  And that meant Chris was responsible for doing the distributing.  And that meant we had to find a way to fit them into the bed and cab of our truck.  Didn’t sound like such a big deal, but once they got started, out pile grew and grew.  I threw in our emergency evacuation tubs from our attic so we wouldn’t have to search for boxes, and we filled up eight of them.  There were two file cabinets plus several other boxes already packed of books and folders and pictures.  Not really a problem.  Then they came out with a huge cedar chest, also filled with stuff.  And then there were the three large glass doll cases, each about the size of our stand-alone ice-maker.  And speaking of dolls, we brought back those three that joined us in the bedroom, along with five or six others.  Chris’ Mom was quite an accomplished doll-maker.  She had the head and appendages cast in some kind of highly breakable substance, sewed them to a soft body, then made the clothes they wore.  Quite an interesting legacy, unless of course you have to sleep in the same room with them watching you.  One of them looks eerily like Chris.  Another kind of favors Cailyn.  Two of them are clearly eskimos.  One is an American Indian baby strapped into a papoose that was made on site in Alaska.  Another may be that kid’s mother.  Chris knows exactly who in the family each one of them is supposed to be given to.  Meanwhile they have to live with us.  Foster parents for dolls.  OK.   The best part of the whole trip, though, was that Chris and her brother were able to work together without any “negative energy,” so to speak.  That’s what we were praying for the whole way there.

Cailyn and April stayed with Mom while we were gone, so they helped us unload when we got back.  Cailyn was very excited to see all the babies.  I just appreciated the extra hands.  We now have another pile in our garage, not to mention the stuff in my office and in our bedroom.  Today we find places for everyone to live for the holidays.  Then Chris can start the sorting process.  Can’t wait. 

Psalms 48:9 says, “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.”

Father, thank you for the peaceful interchanges Chris had with her brother yesterday.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 19 – “Ollo Kiara”

I got to spend some quality DadDad time with Cailyn yesterday while Chris actually took a nap.  That in itself is quite amazing (the nap, I mean).  We did have two nights where Mom slept all the way from eleven or so to around eight, but she’s back to her wandering ways again.  So a nap is always a welcome thing, though Chris rarely takes advantage of it. 

During our time together Cailyn and I went outside.  In the back yard we sat around the outdoor furniture table and blew bubbles for a long time.  Great thing about bubbles: they never do the same thing twice, so every breath is a new experience, literally.  Great way to approach life, too.  From bubbles we went up on the deck.  Caily first practiced her ninja skills, jumping into the air and landing in a different ready position while maintaining her balance on some bricks.  Then we sat down on those bricks and had a birthday party – mine.  She lit the imaginary candles while walking around an imaginary table … three times.  I commented that there must be a lot of candles on the cake, and she replied, “Well, how old are you, DadDad?”  I told her I was 59 years old.  “Hmm,” she pondered, “Fifty-nine.  I can do that.”  So she went back to her imaginary storeroom and made three more trips around the table.  Ouch.  I enjoyed it when she sang to me, though.  “Happy birthday to DadDad” resounded about 59 times before she finally hit the “Happy birthday to you” ending.  I asked if I could taste some icing and pretended to take a swipe with my finger.  Not a good idea.  I was soundly reprimanded, and she had to remove all the candles and re-ice the whole thing.  And yes, she put all the candles back and I had to blow them all out again.  I’ll never sample the icing again. 

We moved to the front yard where she decided it was time to sit in the shade of the parked car and take a break.  I’m all about taking breaks these days.  And during this interlude I learned two important things.  First, she agreed to review for me what it was that she wanted for Christmas.  She has been pretty secretive about it.  She has already told Santa, so she feels like it would be redundant to tell us as well.  But there was one thing that has just too great an appeal.   She wants a horse that is real that has pink icing and diamond sparklies and really long hair down her back.  OK, Santa.  Glad you got that one.  The second revelation was much more interesting.  She told me about her imaginary friend.  I was confused at first, because she started talking about Kiara, and there is a little girl she plays with at church by that name.  I asked if that was who she meant, and she explained.  “No, DadDad.  Her name is Ollo (pronounced owe-low) Kiara, but we just call her Kiara.  She’s mean to me all the time so I don’t bring her to my room.  She’s my sister.  She lives at my house and she’s at home now.”  Well, now, that was a mouthful.  I gently pressed for more details, but she had moved on to another subject.  “Why you want to talk about someone who is not even here, DadDad?  I told you she was at my home.”  Ah, so much for delving into the “real world” of a three-year-old. 

Psalms 48:1 says, “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.”

Father, your greatness is clear to see in the mountains, but even more so in the imagination of a three-year-old.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18 – “Signed in blood”

Last night was one of those allergy-inflicted can’t-breathe kind of nights for me.  I finally switched to the couch so Chris could at least get her few winks between dealing with Mom through the night.  And then Mom got up at around six and insisted she was ready for something to eat.  When we got her set up at the table, Chris went back to bed and I went on duty, so to speak.  Ah, the life of caring for an elderly parent. 

Chris did get out of the house for a few hours yesterday, though.  I hung out with Mom while she did some shopping.  Actually Mom slept on the couch most of the time Chris was gone.  I began researching and preparing for the teaching and the service for next Sunday.  The theme is love, so I figure I can find lots of data on that.  The thing I’m most excited about is that Kelly, one of our college students (she is a junior at Baylor), is going to share some about how her idea of love has changed over the years.   Wish I had known about that before I responded to a request from the religion editor of our local newspaper.  He wanted to know what I planned to preach on this Sunday so he could include a quote in his article.  Maybe I can email him with an update and get her name in the paper.

I also worked on the carving I’m doing for Chris’s Christmas present this year.  I’m down to mostly detail work, but I still managed to inflict at least three cuts on my weary fingers.  Happens every year.  In fact it’s become part of the process.  It’s like my signature.  Transferring some of my DNA to the object so it can always be tracked in the future.  There’s probably some kind of idea in there that will really makes sense for safety control people in the future.  It will probably be quite a lucrative business in fact.  And as usual, I’ll never see any of the fruits of that idea.  But think of it.  Rub a little of your blood on an object that you want to “sign,” maybe just in a tiny little crack or crevice.  Then register your DNA in a database.  If the object ever gets lost or stolen and subsequently recovered, the CSI guys will check for DNA and return it to you.  Kind of sheds new light on the old pirate idea, “signed in blood.”  Go for it, you scientist types.

Psalms 47:8 says, “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.”

Father, thank you for the ultimate Jesus-blood signature you place on us when we come to you.  Amen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17 – “Joy Day”

I really like Advent.  Great season for anticipation, which is my favorite word for Christmas.  This past Sunday the seasonal emphasis for the day was Joy.  Again, how can you beat a whole day that is dedicated to being joyful?  We started out the service by defining the word.  One of our college girls who was home for the holidays helped me out on that one.  We were discussing what the best way to explain the concept would be to a three year old.  I have a lot in common with three year olds.  We like to see things rather than just talk about them.  So I wanted to demonstrate the Hebrew word for joy.  Lora and I gave our best demonstration of leaping and twirling.  Actually she did much better than I did, since I was hampered by that nagging knee injury.  I have to say, though, that we were both put to shame in the category of frolicking by the little baby goats in the video we saw.  Very cute.  If you want to check it out, see:

Another example of joy was in the clip from the movie Elf.  The store manager tells Buddy that Santa will be there the next morning, and Buddy is absolutely overwhelmed with excitement.  He shouts.  He tells everyone.  He stays up all night and decorates the department so that it will be just right when Santa gets there.  He even confronts the guy they hired to play Santa because he is an imposter and not the real thing.  There’s a lot of application to the way Christians are supposed to be living in there as we anticipate Jesus to coming back. 

We have been memorizing one particular Bible verse together for the season.  Romans 15:13.  Great one, because it mentions the emphasis for three of the weeks of Advent.  The first week we read it out loud together.  Last week we did a visual verse.  This week we sang it.  Jimmy, our worship leader, managed to somehow make the verse fit into the tune of Jingle Bells.  He did a much better job than I did, too.  It was a lot of fun.  We’ll have to try that again sometime.  Now I have to come up with a different way to learn it for next Sunday.  Any ideas?

My favorite part of the day came during the last song, a very upbeat version of The Lord’s right Hand.  While we sang everyone blew bubbles.  That’s right.  One of our youth guys gave everyone a bottle of bubble juice, and we all blew bubbles and sang.  How’s that for getting down to childlikeness?  Great fun.  Like I said, I have lots in common with three year olds. 

So next Sunday’s emphasis is love.  Guess I’ll have to start ruminating on that one.  Creative ways to express God’s love.  Hmm …

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Father, thank you for the whole idea of Joy.  Makes for a much more pleasant approach to life.  Amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16 – “Christmas Jeopardy"

Last night I went to the Seaside youth Christmas party.  Chris stayed home with Mom.  Looks like that will be a familiar track for us now.  Mom’s mental capacity has deteriorated to the extent that it is more and more difficult to care for her.  Chris finally agreed to call the doctor Monday and see about getting some home health help at least for baths. 

The party went pretty well.  It has been difficult to predict what will happen with our teenagers since our youth pastor resigned.  I have been preparing something each week to lead a Bible study, but no one has come the last few weeks.  It’s time to revisit the whole ministry and see what kind of different approach we can take.  Maybe something that encourages families to rediscover the whole togetherness idea.  Hmm.

The white elephant part of the party was fun as always.  The gift I opened was a pair of Green Lantern jockey underwear.  Nice.  Of course they were stolen.  I also briefly had (get it?  “brief”-ly) the movie The Tooth Fairy starring Rock, the Rock Johnson.  I ended up with a package of Christmas blend coffee from Starbucks.  Not bad.  Now the decision.  Should I post the pictures on FaceBook?

I put together a Christmas Jeopardy game for the party.  Six categories to choose from: Christmas Trivia levels 1-3, Christmas Songs, Christmas Movies, and The Real Christmas.  We played guys against the girls.  Sadly, the girls totally annihilated their opponents.  2600 to 1300.  How would you have done?  Well, here are some of the answers.  Remember, you have to come up with the question.  And put that iPhone down.  No cheating on Wikipedia.

1.  The first president to decorate a White House Christmas Tree.

2.  The Christmas carol being sung outside Scrooge’s office in A Christmas Carol.

3.  The three other alliterative names Charles Dickens considered before settling on Tiny Tim.

4.  How Buddy knows he is a wash-out as a toymaker in Elf.

5.  Figure out the real name of this rejected title for a Christmas song:

Tintinnabulation of Vacillating Pendulums in Inverted Metallic Resonant Cups

6.  He told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem.

 I’ll put the answers in tomorrow’s blog.  If you want more, let me know on FaceBook.

Psalms 47:7 says, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.”

 Father, ease Mom’s difficulties, and give Chris an extra dose of encouragement and energy.  Amen.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15 – “Princess in Process”

Well, what a Christmas present we received yesterday.  Not a present, really.  More like an announcement of a present to come.  And I got a kick out of how Kel made it public.  First he posted on FaceBook, “Luke or Leia?”  Then after the ultrasound results came back, he posted a picture of Princess Leia.  Not that they are really going to name their number four child after the Star Wars royalty.  Hers is just one of the names suggested by the current horde of males that reside under their roof.  I have heard Hannah as another possibility.  I understand that name would have a fortunate biblical connection to match the others in the family, not to mention a certain “preferred female friend” that Jachin has fond memories of. 

They did call us before the news went public on FaceBook.  Kel knows his Mom well.  She would have haunted him forever if they hadn’t.  Very sweet FaceTime call it was.  Micah made the actual announcement after some difficulty getting connected.  He seemed pleased enough.  Jachin remained noncommittal.  I think those two are somewhat disappointed, though.  A baby sister means they have a lot of work ahead of them.  After all, who else is there to watch out for the little princess … for the rest of her life?  A life sentence of bodyguard duty.  Talk about job security.  I know cousin Cailyn will be ecstatic that she will finally have another girl around (at least until she learns that this new female could be an interloper of attention).  Josiah was still unconvinced.  He understands that there is a little baby in Mommy’s tummy, but this whole thing about it being a girl just can’t be true, can it? 

I think Josiah’s uncertainty may have affected his choice of music.  He did a lot of singing to himself when they were here last night.  I was able to recognize some his renditions.  Jingle Bells was there.  I managed to piece together Zaccheus was a Wee Little Man.  But his favorite for the evening was one I still don’t get.  Oh, the words were clear enough, I just don’t have a clue what the song was supposed to be.  Have you ever heard, “I the coconut in the coconut tree”?  I even looked it up online.  Best I could do was “The Lime in the Coconut” (definitely a classic), and one song about being in love in Hawaii under the coconut trees.  We had some fun singing along with Google, but got no help on Josiah’s performances.  I guess it was a special creation in honor of Baby Leia (or whatever name ends up sticking on that tiny little princess in process).  And how do Nana and DadDad feel about the whole thing?  Bring her on.  Plenty of hugs and kisses to go around.  All I ask is the chance to dance with her at her wedding. 

Psalms 47:5-6 says, “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.  Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.”

Father, thank you for the miracles that babies bring, no matter how old they get.  Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14 – “But the knee”

Ah, the things one does for a beautiful granddaughter.  You can’t expect me to let her continue crying, can you?  It’s in my nature to do everything possible to make her happy, even when Mommy is leaving for school (by the way, Mommy did well on her final, and now has only one semester to go.  Way to go, Mommy).  As April began her walk to the car and Cailyn began her wailing, I grabbed her from behind (Cailyn, not April) and tossed her into the air.  She giggled briefly as I caught her on the way down, so I repeated the process, trying to fill in any dead space with talking or laughter of my own.  I twirled around and around.  I bounced and dipped.  We followed April outside to give her one last hug, and the bouncing and twirling continued.  And then … and then … well, I’m not exactly sure what happened then.  All I know is, I lost my balance and was plummeting toward the earth with Cailyn in my arms.  Determined to protect her at all costs, I twisted just a bit to my right, aiming as best as I could for the thick grass that blankets our front yard.  It took some doing, but when we hit, we hit the soft sod instead of the concrete.  That was particularly helpful from my perspective.  See, I had her cradled in my arms, so there were only three points of contact with the ground.  My right elbow, my right knee, and my face.  The face I wasn’t worried about.  Couldn’t look much worse than it already does.  The elbow site resulted in a pretty sore shoulder, if that makes any sense.  But the knee.  Ouch.  I think it may have hit the sidewalk or something.  It swelled up and is still incredibly painful.  Of course I couldn’t let on that I was hurting.  Cailyn was still sniffling, though she did seem to get a thrill out of the fall itself.  We lay on the grass for a few micro-seconds and looked at each other, me reveling in the fact that we were still alive, she wondering where this strange new carnival ride had appeared from.  Then I hopped up to prove we were both fine.  Of course that’s when I realized my knee hurt, so I lost my balance again.  This time, though I managed to crash against my parked truck so I could stay upright.  Yeah, I know.  I should have stayed down for the count.  But we were all good.  Sort of.  Cailyn felt good enough to tune back up for a minute or two, just long enough for her Mom to drive away.  The typical kid’s ploy to make Mom feel terrible for abandoning her.  As soon as her Mom was out of sight, she was fine and we made our way back into the house.  Now to crip my way through the rest of the Christmas season.  Too much to do to be injured right now.

Psalms 47:2 says, “How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!”

Father, please help me with some knee healing today.  Amen.